A young mother in the Czech Republic goes for an abortion, and gets it. The doctors discover too late she is pregnant with twins and must carry the second to term. That baby is now eight years old.
She sued for medical malpractice, and received about one third of the damages she asked for.
I am reminded of Emma Beck in the UK, who killed herself after aborting her twins successfully.
She won’t get the chance to sue.
Katerina Novakova, on the other hand, has a healthy eight-year-old, two additional children, and now damages to boot.
Read about it in Czech, here (’cause don’t we all speak a little Czech? “Pivo, prosim!“) or in English, below. Thank you, reader, for this translation.
The story’s protagonists are Katerina Novakova (26) from southern Moravia, and her little daughter. It all started in December 2000, when Katerina Novakova found out that she was pregnant. She was about to sit her final examinations in high school. The child’s father was a man two years her junior. Thus, she decided to abort. Some time later, she discovered that although doctors removed the fetus, another one was left behind in the uterus. Because the risks of undergoing second abortion were too great, the young woman remained pregnant.
It was an unpleasant time Katerina Novakova was living through. She was expecting an unwanted child, her future prospects appeared dim, and above all she was afraid that the incomplete gynecological procedure might have damaged the remaining fetus. Such, at any rate, was her testimony in the civil suit she launched against her doctors promptly in 2001. She sued for 240,000 Czk (ca $12,000) for mental suffering.
The case dragged on until the end of February 2008. Eventually, the court awarded damages “for a life,” in an amount one third of what Novakova sued for, with an explanation that it was her own irresponsible behavior that brought about her pregnancy.
Paradoxes abound in this case. The child, a daughter, born in effect as a result of medical bungling, is now eight years old. For that reason, the court pressured Mrs. Novakova into abandoning her civil action, advising her to rejoice in her healthy daughter (she has two more children by now) – to no avail. The young woman stood her ground.
For journalists with conservative leanings she is thus a poster case serving to point out the wrongfulness of abortion. Her 8-year old child is a living example of how great it is when abortion does not succeed – or is forbidden, a conservative might add.
Therefore, demanding compensation for something that has ended well may seem misguided. The problem is, however, that this happy ending became possible only as a result of the malady of our legal system – its slowness in rendering verdicts. Mrs. Novakova acted quite reasonably. No one can imagine what she has endured, as a very young woman, after a bungled abortion and what kind of life she would have, if the child were born defective. From this angle, her legal action for damages is very legitimate, as well as being very private. It was the lengthy legal proceedings that transformed the dispute into a case of damages recovery for the misdeed of “preserving life” – the life of a happy eight-year old.