Following a landmark decision recently that sterilisation was in the best interests of a man with severe learning difficulties, Inheritance & Welfare Executive Adele Holmes explains how the Court of Protection has stressed that this should not be taken as a green light for other sterilisation cases.
However, it appears that this decision has understandably given hope to a number of people who feel that sterilisation is also in the best interests of their family members in similar circumstances.
An example of this is Alison Thorpe, whose 21 year old daughter suffers from severe cerebral palsy and has the mental age of a 6 month old baby (see story in the Mail Online). In 2008 Alison asked the Court of Protection to make a decision that her daughter should have a hysterectomy to avoid going through the unnecessary pain of menstrual cramps. The Court ruled that a hysterectomy was not in her daughter’s best interests and instead suggested other steps such as the contraceptive pill or injection would be more appropriate when the time comes.
Since her case in 2008, Alison states that her daughter now suffers terribly each month and writhes in pain, without having the mental capacity to understand why. Alison says there is very little she can do for her daughter and, following the last week’s decision that a 36 year old man with learning difficulties should have a vasectomy, has been encouraged to bring her case back to Court.
The Court however has warned that the circumstances in last week’s case were ‘truly exceptional’ and that decisions regarding the permanent removal of a person’s fertility are not taken lightly. Therefore it remains uncertain whether this case will follow in the footsteps of that which was reported last week.
As part of any application for a decision to be made, the Court will require evidence that other options have been exhausted or are not practicable under the circumstances, and therefore the suggested course of action is in the person’s ‘best interests’. The Court in this particular case may well require evidence that contraceptive pills and/or injections have been tried and have been unsuccessful for her daughter, before they consider making a decision for sterilisation.
For expert legal advice on making an application to the Court of Protection for a decision to be made in a person’s best interests, call Slater and Gordon Lawyers on freephone 0800 916 9056 or contact us online.
Adele Holmes is an Inheritance & Welfare Executive at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Manchester.
See related blog: How a Deputyship Order can help to protect vulnerable people.
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