The parents of an “affectionate” and “tactile” woman with Down’s Syndrome have been legally stopped from sterilizing their daughter over fears she might become pregnant.
All the parties in the case are unnamed as is the norm. The woman is referred to as K.
A presiding judge at the Court of Protection in London ruled that it would be disproportionate and unnecessary to perform an invasive procedure on the Down’s Syndrome woman, despite the parents’ concerns.
According to The Telegraph, the court heard that the woman, who is a student, did not have a boyfriend and had not expressed an interest in a relationship.
But her parents, who were described by the judge as “devoted and supportive,” remained worried that their “overfamiliar” daughter could be taken advantage of. Consequently, they moved to have the 21-year-old sterilized for her own protection.
In court, Mr. Justice Cobb, said that K was “by every account, a delightful, warm, engaging and affectionate young woman,” adding that the family’s inter-relationship was ” loving, close, devoted and supportive.”
“There is a large extended family both here and abroad; K has, from time to time, traveled abroad to visit her relatives. In every respect in which I have read about the care which K receives at home, there is nothing but praise for Mr and Mrs K, and their devotion to K.”
Even though the parents were “adamant” that their daughter needed to be sterilized, when the case was referred a second doctor disagreed and suggested various methods of contraception as an alternative.
After an initial court hearing, Dr. Samuel Rowlands, a reproductive health expert who was commissioned by the court, wrote in his report that there was “no clinical need” for sterilization and that it was not in K’s best interests as she did not show any immediate sign of forming a relationship.
Rowlands concluded that contraception was the best course should the need arise.
The judge also noted that — following a recent health problem — the parents had changed their minds about wanting sterilization “at this stage” but had not ruled it out for the future, News Hour 24 reports.
“Although Mr and Mrs K expressed concerns that K is occasionally ‘tactile’ and ‘over-familiar’, that she has begun to be more aware of the ‘opposite sex’, and is vulnerable to sexual exploitation, I note that K is well-supervised at home and at college; there is no evidence that she is seeking a sexual relationship.”
“I note that she is working with the Community Nurse Learning Disability to help her to reduce her vulnerability around others.”
In addition, the judge deemed the potential side-effects sterilization, including damage to the bladder to bowel, as important considerations, saying:
“It is my judgment that sterilization would be a disproportionate (and not the least restrictive) step to achieve contraception for K in the future, absent significant change in her circumstances.”
“Plainly risk management is better than invasive treatment, it is less restrictive. Moreover, I am persuaded by Dr. Rowlands that there are less restrictive methods of achieving the purpose of contraception than sterilization, and that in the event of a need for contraception, these ought to be attempted.”