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Family law-Reproductive rights

Court has power to order sterilisation

This year a Judge ordered that a woman with severe learning disabilities be sterilised. During the hearing in the Court of Protection, Social Services applied to the court for an order granting them the powers to enter the home of the unnamed woman, who allegedly lacks any mental capacity to make decisions regarding contraception and to sterilise her against her will. The authority’s argument was that the order would be in the best interest of the unnamed woman, who is 36 years of age and already a mother to six children, five of which are all either in care or have been adopted into another family.

Social Services argued that the woman had such severe physical and mental health issues including an IQ of just 70, that she could potentially put her own life in danger should she become pregnant again.

Mr Justice Cobb who granted the application made by Social Services said that the situation was extraordinary, and would involve serious interference with the woman's basic human rights. However, he confirmed that such interference was necessary and proportionate given the woman’s complicated medical and social history.

Given the woman’s history of concealing her pregnancies from the authorities (three of the pregnancies were only discovered by Social Services after the critical 24 week limit during which termination is considered), the Court of Protection intervened and ordered that therapeutic sterilisation was lawful and in the best interests of the woman. Mr Justice Cobb authorised medical staff and Social Services the ability to force entry into the woman’s home, use necessary restraint upon her, and pursue the sterilisation process on her in hospital.

This case is clearly of the extreme; however, it does represent a development in the legal system and the powers that are now available to Social Services and other authorities alike.

At Pinder Reaux Solicitors we cover a broad range of areas under family law and matters relating to the Court of Protection and our experienced team is well placed to provide the fullest service to you. Please call us on 0208 252 7373 where one of our family lawyers is ready to discuss your matter with you.

Simone Barton

Pinder Reaux & Associates