THE parents of a “tactile” and “affectionate” woman with Down’s syndrome have been forbidden from having her sterilised to ally their fears that she might become pregnant.
The judge said that potential complications of sterilisation had also to be borne in mind
A judge at the Court of Protection in London ruled that it would be disproportionate and unnecessary to perform an invasive procedure on the 21-year-old.
The court heard that the woman, a student, who can be named only as K, does not currently have a boyfriend and had not expressed an interest in a relationship.
But her parents, described by the judge as “devoted and supportive”, had grown concerned that she could be taken advantage of.
As she had grown up she had become more aware of the opposite sex and could be “overfamiliar” with people, they said.
They had become convinced that she needed sterilisation to protect her for the future as she becomes more independent of them, Mr Justice Cobb, explained in a judgment made public on Friday,
He said K was “by every account, a delightful, warm, engaging and affectionate young woman”.
“Theirs is a loving, close, devoted and supportive family,” he added.
“There is a large extended family both here and abroad; K has, from time to time, travelled 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.”
The parents, who also cannot be identified, had been to see a specialist, “adamant” that she needed to be sterilised, which he initially supported.
But when a matron with special responsibility for vulnerable adults was told, the matter was referred for a second opinion.
The second doctor disagreed and suggested various methods of contraception, as an alterative.
K’s parents were alarmed, writing to the first doctor that the felt that “to do nothing is a very unsatisfactory outcome … it is our intention in the future and before [K] leaves our care to take her abroad to seek assistance with this matter both privately and confidentially.”
They agreed not to take her out of the country after an initial court hearing.
In a report, Dr Samuel Rowlands, an expert in reproductive health, commissioned by the court, concluded that there was “no clinical need” for sterilisation and that it was not in her best interests as she did not show any immediate sign of forming a relationship.
He instead said contraception should be explored should the need arise.
The judge noted that, following a recent health problem, the parents do want sterilisation “at this stage” but have not ruled it out in future.
He said: “Although Mr and Mrs K expressed concerns that K is occasionally ‘tactile’ and ‘overfamiliar’, 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.”
He added that potential complications of sterilisation, including damage to the bowel or bladder, had also to be borne in mind.
“It is my judgment that sterilisation would be a disproportionate (and not the least restrictive) step to achieve contraception for K in the future, absent significant change in her circumstances,” he said.
“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 sterilisation, and that in the event of a need for contraception, these ought to be attempted.”
SOURCE: The Telegraph