After nearly 30 years writing and editing news from rural Colorado to the Alaska wilderness and places in between, it takes a lot these days to elicit the reaction, “Well, now I’ve seen everything.”
While I admit that’s happened more often since the COVID-19 pandemic began, this week’s news out of England still has me befuddled. To classify this as a frivolous lawsuit just isn’t adequate. You have to call this THE frivolous legal action.
Seems a 20-year-old woman named Evie Toombes was born with spina bifida, a neurological condition that has and will affect her for life. She has filed a lawsuit against her mother’s former doctor.
His offense? Her birth.
That’s right, she’s suing over having been born, what The Sun newspaper calls a landmark “wrongful conception” lawsuit.
The claim is that Toombes’ mother wasn’t adequately informed of the importance of taking a supplement before conception that reduces the risk of the baby contracting spina bifida. Had he done so, her mother says she would’ve waited before conceiving her daughter.
By extension, that means Toombes would never have been born.
Not only does it seem a little messed up and entitled to want to hold someone accountable just for being born, it’s also disturbing to consider that her mom supports the action. Even if under the guise of supporting your child no matter what, it sends a warped message she also wishes her daughter didn’t exist.
If you have the gumption to want to hold a doctor responsible for your own birth, why doesn’t she also sue her mother? Her decisions, not the doctor’s, ultimately led to her conceiving, carrying to term and giving birth.
Instead, according to her attorney, the young woman’s legal complaint is “having been born in a damaged state,” and she’s asking for millions of dollars in damages to take care of her for the rest of her life.
Almost as ridiculous as contemplating suing over your own birth are the potential consequences of winning. If one person can hold a doctor responsible for his or her existence, nothing seems too far off the table. Perhaps people could then sue their parents because they were born poor and into an economically disadvantaged life.
Wading through outrageous and seemingly unbelievable stories comes with being a newspaper editor. Some make you do a little research to verify because they’re so far out of bounds.
There was The Associated Press story I saw move more than 20 years ago about a zoo worker who died while giving an elephant and enema. The story was, the worker was standing behind a constipated elephant that had been given a laxative. He had a garden hose and was holding it up and in the animal’s rear when it finally let loose with such force the deluge of dung knocked the worker down and out.
Buried unconscious under a pile of elephant diarrhea, the man suffocated and died. Turns out the story wasn’t true, but had made the rounds so much (pre-social media) that it finally was picked up by the AP and accepted as fact.
Then there was my time covering news in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, a poor, rural area in the southcentral part of the state that seems to attract weird news like a magnet.
Within the first few months on the job, I had written about:
• A woman who was acquitted of stabbing her sister to death while attending their father’s wake.
• A county sheriff who apparently was growing marijuana on his desk. Although it had an evidence tag on it, it was clear at every weekly visit to gather the police reports someone was watering and cultivating the plant.
• A three-member board of county commissioners who all were convicted of federal election fraud for having hundreds of dead people “vote” for them. When they were out of prison less than two years later, they were re-elected.
• A woman who killed and ate her boyfriend. She avoided a trial by pleading insanity, but even the basic details are almost unbelievable. In a nutshell, the man’s remains — minus his legs — were found in his home. The leg bones were found in a dumpster behind the woman’s apartment. Inside, they found packages of human flesh in her refrigerator, and human remains in a pot, bowl and spoon.
Like Jimmy Stewart in the classic “It’s a Wonderful Life,” who learned just how one life not lived affects the tapestry of a community, it’s difficult to believe any court could take Toombes’ claims seriously.
Then again, stranger things have happened.