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Judge rules woman with learning disabilities can be sterilised by force

A mother-of-six with learning disabilities can be sterilised, a judge has ruled Credit: PA

A woman with learning disabilities can be sterilised by force, a judge has ruled.

Health and social services have been given permission to force entry into the woman's home, use ''necessary restraint'' and sterilise her, at a hearing in the Court of Protection in London.

Mr Justice Cobb, who described the case as "exceptional," declared that the 36-year-old woman lacked the mental capacity to make decisions regarding contraception.

Specialists said the woman, who has six children, had physical health problems which could put her life in danger if she became pregnant again.

The judge concluded that "therapeutic sterilisation" would be lawful and in the woman's best interests.

The ethical, legal and medical issues arising here are self-evidently of the utmost gravity, engaging, and profoundly impacting upon (the woman's) personal autonomy, privacy, bodily integrity, and reproductive rights," Mr Justice Cobb explained in his written ruling.

This is, in my judgment, an exceptional case on its facts; the applicants seek a range of relief which is likely to arise only in the most extreme circumstances.

– Mr Justice Cobb

Mr Justice Cobb said the case was not about eugenics and that a further pregnancy could threaten the woman's life.

He said the woman had a history of concealing or attempting to conceal pregnancies from health professionals.

"The risk to (the woman) of a future pregnancy, especially if concealed, is highly likely to lead to her death'," he added.