Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Americas' Highest Court Holds Forced Sterilization Violates Human Rights

International Justice Center Resource Center (January 3, 2016): IACtHR Holds Bolivia Responsible for Forced Sterilization in Landmark Judgment:

Last week, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights held that sterilization of a woman without informed consent violates her human rights. The case was brought by I.V., a Peruvian refugee who was sterilized after delivering her third child in a Bolivian public hospital in 2000. According to Court documents, the doctors decided while performing a cesarean section that a future pregnancy would be dangerous for I.V. and performed a tubal ligation.  The parties contested whether or not the doctors' obtained I.V.'s consent during the C-section.

The Court's decision provides important guidance on informed consent for sterilization.

The Court articulated three elements of informed consent: that it is granted prior to initiating any medical act; that it is provided freely, voluntarily, autonomously, without pressure of any kind, without using it as a condition for submission to other procedures or benefits, and without coercion, threats, or disinformation; and that it is full and informed.

Although emergency exceptions can apply to informed consent the Court held that the risk of preventing a future pregnancy cannot be characterized as an emergency.  Consistent with decisions from the European Court of Human Rights, the Court held that a woman cannot give informed consent when she has "just given birth, or is under epidural anesthesia, surgical stress, or lying in an operating room."

The decision is not yet available in English.  The Spanish version can be found here.

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