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Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics


Since the United States Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade, the line of viability for human fetuses has been consistently pushed back to earlier and earlier gestational ages. Granting "person" status to a nonviable fetus, even if only for purposes of the wrongful death statute, as the Oklahoma Supreme Court did in Nealis v. Baird, represents an important expansion of fetal rights. Although the court explicitly limited its decision to nonviable fetuses born alive, Judge Opala conceded that much of his opinion could apply equally to stillborn fetuses. The court's decision in Nealis raises important questions about the limits of a nonviable fetus's rights under the law and, consequently, the limits of tort liability, particularly for physicians.

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