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Court of Protection offers pregnancy right to woman with limited mental capacity

01st February 2013

The decision has now been handed down that the woman, who was 18 weeks pregnant at the time, has the capacity to “decide whether or not to continue with, or terminate, pregnancy” for herself.

Expert evidence was gathered from the woman’s doctors and healthcare professionals, while independent opinion was given by psychiatrist Dr Stephen Tyler. All were in agreement that the woman, who is supported by a close family who wanted her to go ahead with the pregnancy, should be given the right to decide for herself whether to continue with the pregnancy.

At the High Court in London, Mr Justice Hedley said that courts and clinicians should, in most cases, not attempt to decide whether a person with limited mental capacity will be able to look after a child once it is born and instead focus on whether the fact of pregnancy alone is in the best interests of the subject.

Judge Hedley added that people with severe learning difficulties must be given the freedom to make their own choices even if they are eventually seen as bad ones and that the purpose of laws relating to mental capacity were not to wrap the subjects up in cotton wool, but to allow them to make the same mistakes as all other human beings in a supportive environment.

The Court of Protection ruling has been seen as significant in offering clarity on such matters to solicitors who act for representatives of people with limited mental capacities and those who also act as deputies for clients.

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