British court authorizes the sterilization of mentally handicapped man

The British Court of Protection last week made a landmark decision to permit the sterilization of a mentally handicapped adult man. The 36-year-old, who has a mental age between six to nine years, has expressed the wish not to have children but is unable to understand the implications of a vasectomy. The presiding judge Justice Eleanor King said sterilization was “lawful and in [the] best interests of this man”, adding that the operation would let him have “as normal a life as possible, as soon as possible”.

The man has a girlfriend of a similar age and mental capacity, with whom he already fathered a child. The parents of the man made the petition to the court, claiming that sterilization would mean he could have sexual relations without risk of conception. Kings College London Legal expert Penny Lewis said it was of paramount importance to give the man back his sexual independence: "It would be hard to imagine a (similar) case where the benefits would be more obvious than this one."

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