Judges may order man's sterilisation

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THREE SENIOR judges are being asked to decide whether a man aged 28 should be sterilised without his consent.

The man, from south London, has Down's syndrome. His mother, 63, says she wants her son to have a vasectomy because she can no longer keep him under strict supervision and any pregnancy would have serious consequences for the mother and child.

The High Court family division refused her application to declare the operation lawful in July. Now the case is before the Court of Appeal, which was told that the operation was in the man's best interests because it would give him the opportunity to start relationships without running the risk of being responsible for a pregnancy.

Allan Levy QC, representing the mother, told Lady Justice Butler-Sloss, Lord Justice Schiemann and Lord Justice Thorpe that the man was not capable of giving or withholding his consent to the operation.

The man, whose identity was protected by a court order, had been involved in sexual incidents with young women, Mr Levy said. There were about four cases a year involving the sterilisation of handicapped women, but this was the first involving a man, Mr Levy added.

The Official Solicitor, Laurence Oates, opposes the operation, which he says would not improve the man's way of life. Robert Francis QC, representing the Official Solicitor, said there was a presumption against sterilisation for those who could not give consent unless it was in their best interests. The hearing continues today.