'A truly exceptional case': Court to decide on sterilisation of man with learning difficulties

The man’s lawyer stressed the case was not covered by the shadow of eugenics

The Court of Protection could make legal history this month if it sanctions the sterilisation of a man with learning difficulties who lacks the ability to give permission.

In what has been described as a “truly exceptional case”, Mrs Justice Eleanor King is set to rule whether it is in the best interests of a 36-year-old man from the Midlands with moderate to severe learning difficulties to be sterilised by means of a vasectomy.

The application was made by an NHS Trust and is backed by the man’s parents, GP, and local authority. It is said the man, who can only be referred to as DE for legal reasons, does not have the capacity to make the decision himself.

The man already has one son from his longstanding relationship. The court heard that DE does not want any more children but is unable to effectively obtain and use contraception. It was said becoming a father again would cause him “psychological harm”.

He is currently only able to see his girlfriend under supervision, to “keep them safe”. The court was told if another child was born it could be taken into care.

John McKendrick, representing the local authority, said the court had “the power to return DE’s independence to him”. He told the hearing, held at the High Court in London: “A vasectomy is in his best interest.”

The judge, who is expected to make her decision in a week, said the case was a “matter of great public importance”. But she also said she was “extremely concerned” about the effects the proceedings were having on DE. 

She added: “He has a child. He sees it and he likes playing with it. He sees value in his relationship to that child. Against that background, he is absolutely clear he does not want to have any more children.”

But in anticipation of the potential controversy that would be caused by the landmark decision, DE’s solicitor was keen to stress that the case “was not covered by the shadow of eugenics.”

Mr Angus Moon QC added: “It is not about a youngish man being given a vasectomy against his will. Evidence, in the official solicitors’ submission, is compelling that DE does want to have a vasectomy. This is an exceptional case and should not be seen as a green light for other applications for vasectomies in respect of other people with learning difficulties.”

Mr Moon told the judge that if she decides to allow the sterilisation it would be the “first judgment in this jurisdiction [England and Wales] in which permission has been given to carry out a vasectomy”.

It is believed to be only the second application for the sterilisation of a man to have come before the court. The first, in 1999, was refused.

The Independent has campaigned for the right to report on the workings of the Court of Protection – one of the most private courts in the country – for years.

DE’s parents were both present at the hearing, but did not want to add any comment. His mother wiped back tears as her husband thanked the court. The judge said she had the “utmost admiration” for the pair who have spent nearly three years on this issue. She added: “DE is a lucky man because he has got both of you.”"

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an I...

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen