Pennsylvania’s Act 47 Law

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The medical malpractice lawyers at Lupetin & Unatin, LLC are disappointed to report that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has unanimously refused to void Pennsylvania’s Act 47. Act 47, among other things, is a law that prohibits medical malpractice lawsuits which claim damages in the form of wrongful birth and wrongful life. On November 18, 2015, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court unanimously decided the matter of Sernovitz, et al. v. Holy Redeemer Hospital, et al. and concluded that after so many years in effect Act 47 had essentially become immune to the constitutional challenges brought by the Sernovitz family.

The original lawsuit arose from alleged malpractice in which a mother and father were not told that their unborn child had been diagnosed with a serious genetic disorder. As a result, the parents were deprived of the option to abort the fetus. In reliance on Act 47, the Sernovitz’s original Complaint was dismissed by the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas. On appeal, the Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed the lower court’s decision and overturned Act 47’s ban on wrongful birth and wrongful life lawsuits. Now, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has weighed in and decided unequivocally that wrongful birth and wrongful life lawsuits are not permitted to be filed in the State of Pennsylvania.

This is a disappointing decision given the court’s primary rationale that, “invalidating all of these provisions retroactive to 1988 would be unduly disruptive to the order administration of justice in Pennsylvania.”

Miraculously, our law firm recently filed a wrongful birth lawsuit and successfully resolved it between the time of the Superior Court’s decision permitting such claims and this recent Supreme Court decision prohibiting them. While our client was fortunate to have fit her claim within the Superior and Supreme Court decisions, it is disheartening to think of the myriad of valid wrongful life/birth cases which result from medical malpractice and/or misrepresentations that are now forever barred as a matter of Pennsylvania law.

If you are interested in reading the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s complete Opinion, you may access it here.

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