Sterilization and a Mentally Handicapped Minor: Providing Consent for One Who Cannot
Appelbaum, Gabrielle M.
La Puma, John
Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics. 1994 Spring; 3(2): 209-215.
The moral standing of involuntary sterilization has long been subject to debate but has only recently been looked upon with disfavor. When sterilization of a mentally handicapped minor is entertained, issues of eugenics, medical ethics, and legal precedent specially arise. Ethics consultants and ethics committees have been asked to consider such cases. We present the case of a mentally handicapped girl whose parents requested an endometrial ablation, an accepted procedure to diminish menstrual flow and the girl's attendant anxiety. The requested procedure would have the unintended effect of sterilizing her. An ethics consultant was asked to see the patient and to assist the patient's parents and the requesting obstetrician with identifying and resolving the ethical issues at hand. The case reveals circumstances under which sterilization is thought by the parents to be a logical next step and desirable effect. Case analysis considers the best interests of the girl whose fate is being weighed and attempts to take into account the well-being of the family as a whole. Support for the family unit and their overall health may here be the highest good. Parents who act as proxies for their mentally handicapped children require special support, analysis, and assistance before making this irreversible decision.
Alternatives; Case Studies; Children; Competence; Contraception; Consent; Consultation; Ethicists; Ethics; Ethics Committees; Eugenics; Females; Guidelines; Health; Involuntary Sterilization; Legal Aspects; Medical Ethics; Minors; Moral Policy; Motivation; Organizations; Pain; Parental Consent; Parents; Pediatrics; Physicians; Professional Organizations; Prognosis; Psychological Stress; Risks and Benefits; Sterilization; Surgery;
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