UK court OKs vasectomy for man who can't consent

16.08.2013 17:52

Last Updated: Friday, August 16, 2013
(AP) A British court has ruled for
the first time that a man who lacked the
capacity to give informed consent should
have a vasectomy because it is in his "best
The 36-year-old man, known only as DE, has
an IQ of 40, lives with his parents and has a
long-term girlfriend who also has severe
learning disabilities. In 2009, DE's girlfriend
became pregnant and had a child. According
to Friday's court ruling, DE insisted he did not
want any more children.
His doctors and parents applied to the court
for the vasectomy since DE doesn't have the
mental capacity to agree. The judge ruled
that it was "overwhelmingly in DE's best
interests" to have the procedure.
Experts said DE was able to consent to a
sexual relationship and that a vasectomy
would give him a measure of independence.
Attempts to teach DE how to use condoms
Britain's Court of Protection regularly makes
decisions for people lacking mental capacity
and has previously ordered women sterilized,
but this is the first time a vasectomy has
been ordered on the grounds that it is in the
man's best interests.
"The court simply concluded...that a
vasectomy was in the patient's best interests
because fatherhood was not," said Charles
Foster, a medical ethics expert at Oxford
University, in an email. Experts said another
child would cause DE major "psychological
harm" and said his relationship had broken
down when his child was born.
"This is not a decision the court made
lightly," said Penney Lewis, a legal ethics
expert at King's College London, who said
the judge had an obligation to choose the
least intrusive method. "This is a man who
already has a child and has repeatedly
expressed his opinion he does not want any
more," she said.
Lewis said the case showed the burden of
evidence needed for the court to order a
sterilization procedure.
"There were extensive efforts made by
everybody involved to improve his quality of
life by other means," she said. "It would be
hard to imagine a (similar) case where the
benefits would be more obvious than this