Doctors are applying for a court order to allow them to carry out an abortion on a mentally disabled woman without her consent.
Doctors seek court order to carry out abortion on mentally disabled woman
The woman, who is not being named for legal reasons, suffers from sickle cell disease which has already caused her to have a string of strokes.
The medical team treating her say they are concerned that allowing her pregnancy to continue any further could endanger her life.
They describe the situation as “urgent” and say that they must act quickly to reduce the risk.
Lawyers from an NHS trust in the south of England are due to take their case to the Court of Protection, sitting at the High Court in London later his week.
The judge will be asked to make an order allowing doctors to treat the woman without her consent.
She is described as having a “significant learning impairment” and doctors believe she does not have the capacity to make a decision for herself.
Sickle cell disease is an inherited condition in which the red blood cells which supply oxygen to the body develop abnormally.
The cells, shaped like a crescent sickle rather than being round, have a tendency to clog sections of blood vessels.
The blockages, which can last for weeks at a time, can cause anaemia which leaves patients tired and breathless. In more severe cases, they can cause severe breathing problems and strokes.
According to the NHS about 250,000 people in England have the condition, which is particularly prevalent within certain ethnic minorities.
The Court of Protection, which until recently held all of its cases behind closed doors, has “life or death” powers over those judged to be incapable of making decisions about their health.
Last year, the court effectively banned a young autistic woman from having sexual intercourse because she does not understand the risks involved.
The judge said that the court had a responsibility to protect people’s freedom to make “unwise decisions” but must occasionally restrict it in their best interests.
Hospitals and councils have previously asked judges to force women to take contraception and undergo surgery.
One woman with dementia was almost prevented from taking a cruise after social workers said it was too dangerous.
The latest case contrasts markedly with that of Savita Halappanavar, the Indian woman who died after being refused an abortion which could have saved her life by a hospital in Ireland.
The case became a focus for campaigns for liberalisation of access to abortion and prompted a change in the law in Ireland.