Mother of six 'can be sterilised'

James GallagherBy James Gallagher
Health editor, BBC News website


A mother of six with an IQ of 70 should be sterilised for her own safety, the Court of Protection has ruled.

The Court heard that a further pregnancy would be a “significantly life-threatening event” for both the mother and child.

Mr Justice Cobb said the woman had the “same human rights” as everyone else and this was not a case of “eugenics”.

He has authorised health and council services to intervene and perform the sterilisation.

The name of the woman has not been released, to protect the identify of her children.

The Court of Protection, which rules in cases when people are unable to make decisions for themselves, heard the woman has no contact with any of her six children. All are being raised by carers.

The 36-year-old’s history was described as “extraordinary, tragic, and complex”.

Two of the children were born at home in conditions described as “unhygienic and overrun by pets”.

There is evidence that barbecue tongs were used as forceps, although this was denied.

In another birth, the woman – known only as DD – contested there was no father and the pregnancy resulted from a “tablet from a health food shop”.


Mr Cobb’s judgement said: “The ethical, legal and medical issues arising here are self-evidently of the utmost gravity, engaging, and profoundly impacting upon DD’s personal autonomy, privacy, bodily integrity, and reproductive rights.”

It said there were considerable concerns about the woman’s safety.

Doctors said the wall of her uterus was “tissue-paper thin” and likely to rupture in childbirth, leading to almost certain death of the infant.

Mr Cobb insisted: “Those who lack capacity have the same human rights as everyone else.

“This case is not about eugenics, this outcome has been driven by the bleak yet undisputed evidence that a further pregnancy would be a significantly life-threatening event.”

He has authorised a sterilisation operation, but there will be no notice given to the woman or her long-term partner, who also has learning disabilities.

Rebecca Schiller, the co-chairwoman of the human rights in childbirth charity Birthrights, said: “Taking away a person’s ability to have a child is truly draconian.

“It may be justified in extreme circumstances, but immense care must be taken to safeguard the rights of people with mental health conditions.”

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Doctor not guilty of performing FGM

Dr Dhanuson Dharmasena

As June Kelly reports, the trial was the first of its kind in the UK

An NHS doctor has been cleared of performing female genital mutilation (FGM) on a young mother.

Dhanuson Dharmasena, 32, was accused of carrying out the illegal procedure when stitching the woman after she gave birth at the Whittington Hospital, north London, in 2012.

A second man, Hasan Mohamed, 41, of Holloway, north London, has been cleared of aiding and abetting him.

The trial marked the first prosecution of its kind in the UK.

A jury acquitted Dr Dharmasena after less than half an hour of deliberations.

Whittington Hospital in north LondonDr Dhanuson Dharmasena faced the ‘nightmarish scenario’ of finding the woman circumcised, the court heard

Defence barrister Zoe Johnson QC said he had “been hung out to dry” and forced to pay the “ultimate price” for hospital failings.

It had been alleged that the stitching Dr Dharmasena performed on the woman effectively redid the FGM carried out on her as a six-year-old in Somalia.

Dr Dharmasena, of Ilford, north-east London, told Southwark Crown Court he “regarded FGM as an abhorrent practice”.

Dr Dhanuson Dharmasena arrives at Southwark Crown CourtDr Dhanuson Dharmasena’s lawyer said labelling him a criminal would not stop FGM in the UK

After the verdict, he said: “I am extremely relieved with the court’s verdict and I am grateful to the jury for their careful consideration of the facts.”

He said he looked forward to putting the matter behind him.

He now faces an investigation by the General Medical Council, which suspended him in March. Since then, he has been working in a lab carrying out research.

The two-week trial heard the mother was taken to the Whittington Hospital in north London on 24 November 2012.

But hospital trust failings meant she had not been placed on the FGM pathway as she should have been.

Instead Dr Dharmasena, then a junior registrar, faced the “nightmarish scenario” of discovering she was circumcised as she went into emergency labour.

He had never treated a woman with FGM before or received any training in it.

‘Enormous step forward’

Ms Johnson said: “Female genital mutilation is not going to be stopped in this country by labelling Dr Dharmasena a criminal and a mutilator of women.”

Her words were echoed by Edmund Vickers, representing Mr Mohamed.

He said: “The irony may not be lost on you that the purpose of the Female Genital Mutilation Act is to protect victims of female genital mutilation.

“And yet this first prosecution has brought a victim of female genital mutilation into the full glare of a public trial.”

Alison Saunders, director of public prosecutions said it was right the case was put before a court.

She said: “On three separate occasions, the judge dismissed applications by the defence to stop the case, thereby agreeing that the evidence should be considered by a jury.”

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists welcomed the verdict.

A spokeswoman said the case highlighted “complex issues” and “the resource implications for NHS services, including early identification and referral, better record-keeping and information-sharing between healthcare professionals”.

Maria Wandia from anti-FGM charity Equality Now, called the trial “an enormous step forward and a watershed moment for women and girls affected by FGM”.

She said: “It not only communicates that FGM is against the law, but that the law will be fully implemented.”

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