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Akron Univ. School of Law

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Illinois Court Rules on Sterilization of Mentally Disabled Woman

The Chicago Tribune reports on a recent decision by the Illinois Appellate Court that denied a request to sterilize a mentally disabled woman against her will.  Michael Higgins writing for the Tribune states,

Disability rights advocates and medical ethicists praised a precedent-setting ruling Friday by the Illinois Appellate Court denying a bid to sterilize a mentally disabled woman against her will.

The woman, identified only as K.E.J. in court records, isn't capable of raising a child on her own, but her guardian failed to prove that sterilization would be in her best interests, a three-judge panel in Chicago ruled unanimously.

"Tubal ligation is a particularly drastic means of preventing a mentally incompetent ward from becoming pregnant," Judge Joseph Gordon wrote in the 36-page opinion. There are "less intrusive and less psychologically harmful [birth-control] alternatives."

The ruling was the first appellate opinion on the issue in Illinois. "It's extraordinarily significant" because it guarantees the disabled a court hearing, said Katie Watson, a Northwestern University professor who wrote a friend-of-the-court brief in the case on behalf of about two dozen medical ethicists.  "In the past, this was a decision that could be made between a guardian and a doctor," she said. "The decision must be moved into the light."  The ruling means a guardian must go through some "significant legal hoops" before a court will order sterilization, said the woman's attorney, John Whitcomb of Equip for Equality, a disability rights group. . . .

Thanks to Cara at Feministe for the link.

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