A HIGH Court judge has for the first time sanctioned the sterilisation of a man because it is “in his best interests”.
Referred to as “DE”, the 36-year-old, from the Midlands, has learning difficulties and already has a son, born in 2010, with his girlfriend.
Mrs Justice Eleanor King, sitting in the Court of Protection in London, ruled that a vasectomy could take place after hearing that DE does not want to become a father again, and another child could cause him “psychological harm”.
The judge was also told that a routine has been in place preventing DE meeting his girlfriend – they have been together for ten years – without supervision to “keep them safe”.
Experts have assessed that DE is capable of consenting to sexual relationships, and an operation will give him back his “independence”.
But he does not have capacity when it comes to making decisions about contraception and cannot be relied upon to use condoms or other birth control methods effectively.
The case came before the court because of undisputed evidence that DE also lacks capacity to decide whether or not to consent to sterilisation.
The judge said DE lives with his parents but has a long-standing, loving relationship with his girlfriend “PQ”, who also has learning disabilities.
The birth of the couple’s first child had a “profound” effect on both families and measures were taken to ensure there was no further pregnancy, with DE, who did not wish to have more children, being supervised at all times.
The judge said the couple’s relationship “nearly broke under the strain, but remarkably weathered the storm”.
She said DE had an amenable personality and “prospered and achieved far beyond what may have been expected given his level of disability” but had suffered badly and had his confidence shaken by the loss of his independence.
The judge said DE’s social worker, who specialised in looking after disabled adults, had told the court “how very unusual it is to see such an enduring relationship between two significantly disabled people”, adding it was “remarkable and very precious and should be valued and protected in their interests”.
The girlfriend’s learning disabilities were not as severe as his, but she was unable to look after her baby by herself.
She lived with her own mother, who had been declared the baby’s special guardian, and was accompanied by a support worker when she took the child out.
The judge said a vasectomy was “undoubtedly in DE’s best interests”, and described his “hard-earned achievements” in learning to live with his disability.
The application to allow a vasectomy was made by DE’s local NHS trust with support from his parents, his GP and the local authority involved in his care. No party opposed the application.