The family v. the Family Court: sterilisation issues Academic Article uri icon


  • Parents as guardians of minor children have the right and duty to give and withhold consent to medical treatment when the treatment is neither routine nor urgent. Parental authority, however, is not absolute and dwindles as the child gradually matures. In general, teenagers can give consent to medical treatment if they understand the nature and consequences of the proposed treatment. The diminution of parental authority is based on the premise that the child will eventually become autonomous. In cases where a sterilisation or hysterectomy procedure is being considered for a severely intellectually disabled teenager the question of consent is most contentious. Should this power belong to parents or the state? This paper examines some recent Family Court cases concerning this issue and also addresses questions about human rights, medical autonomy and the role of the Family Court. Finally, a proposal for an alternative means of decision-making in these cases is briefly outlined.

publication date

  • January 1, 1992