Comment on the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in Dobson vs Dobson

Thursday, July 08 1999
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The Catholic Group for Health, Justice and Life is deeply disappointed that the Supreme Court of Canada has decided that Ryan Dobson can not be fully compensated for pre-natal injuries suffered as a result of his mother's alleged negligence while driving a car.

It is difficult to understand the result in this case both from the point of view of the child and from the point of view of any other negligent driver. Had Mrs Dobson injured another child, that child, once born, would have had a remedy against her. Had a third party caused the injuries to Ryan, he would have been entitled to sue that party.

Regrettably, the court has granted immunity to the mother on public policy reasons of privacy and rights of autonomy and the difficulties of articulating a judicial standard of conduct for pregnant women. There was concern that allowing a child a remedy in these circumstances will open the floodgates to intrusive and frivolous actions. This overlooks the fact that there has been legislation in Ontario for almost twenty-five years permitting a child to sue his or her mother for pre-natal injuries and there has not been one reported case to date.

The Catholic Group is pleased, however, that for the purpose of its Judgment the Court tacitly recognized "that a pregnant woman and her foetus can be treated as separate legal entities" and in describing pregnancy said "Pregnancy speaks of the mystery of birth and life....It represents not only the hope of future generations but also the continuation of the species. It is difficult to imagine a human condition that is more important to society."

While the Court itself did not feel it had the authority to extend the pregnant woman's duty of care to her own unborn child, the Catholic Group is very encouraged that the Court on more than one occasion referred to the legislatures power to do so. The Group encourages the legislatures to respond to this invitation without delay.

The Catholic Group for Health, Justice and Life represents four major organizations in the Catholic Church: the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Catholic Women's League of Canada, the Catholic Health Association of Canada, and the Canadian Association of the Knights of Columbus.


For More Information Contact:
Deacon William Kokesch
Director, Communications Service

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, July 19 2006