Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Update on the 'P' Case

Courtesy of Sky News

I am interested in the thoughts of readers who are Catholics, loyal to the Magisterium, on this case.


Lindi said...

It sounds as though this poor girl is unable to fully consent to sexual relations - how about bringing a charge of rape to the father of these children ? It is so heartbreaking. Forced sterilisation is not the answer = she needs protection !

LD clin psych said...

No, it sounds like the girl does have the mental capacity to consent to sexual relationships (and this will have been properly assessed and facilitated because of her inherent vulnerability). She may have a low mental age but she is above 16 and as an adult she has the right to have sex if she understands the physical and emotional consequences and can fully consent.

She is likely to be having sexual relations with another learning disabled person who is her regular partner, probably her boyfriend. I imagine that she does understand the consequences of sex, in fact it sounds like she is having sex because she wants a baby.
She most certainly won't be having sex with random people or being abused by people less vulnerable to her. She and her partner/boyfriend will have had to have to go through quite a process in order for their mutual consent to have been demonstrated. It almost certainly isn't a case of rape.

What is confusing is the issue of contraception. Given that she's already had two babies now (which have been taken into care by the mother). Contraception will likely to have been decided to be in her best interests (because it's not good for her emotionally to repeatedly have babies which are taken into care and she never sees again; plus the health risks of repeated c-sections). It sounds like she will have been deliberately not using contraception in order to get preganant, in which case the next less drastic step would be a contraceptive implant. I imagine this must have been tried and/or maybe is not an option for whatever (medical reason). Maybe she tried cutting the implant out? Certianly steralisation will have been the last pssible option.
It will be interesting to read the full ruling when it comes.

Caroline said...

Is forced sterlization ever morally acceptable?

Open adoption, which is legal in the UK, I believe, would be one alternative. And from what I have read in the Telegraph, might be acceptable to the girl, too.

According to the mother, “I tried to explain that any future babies will have a new mum and dad. She thinks she can see them at weekends, on their birthdays and at Christmas."

Ttony said...

I'm afraid that beyond knowing that mutilating the unfortunate mother is absolutely wrong, and being able to thank God that I don't have to act as Solomon in the case I feel unable to give an opinion.

But bad cases make bad law: whatever decision the judge takes should also encompass the manner in which her parents, or society, have allowed this situation to arise. If she doesn't have the mental capacity to make informed decisions, then who is responsible for allowing her into situations where sexual activity is taken as a given and the only choice is contraception or non-contraception?

This won't hep at all, but the problem is that the premises on which all involved are acting are wrong.

LD clin psch said...

According to the mother, “I tried to explain that any future babies will have a new mum and dad. She thinks she can see them at weekends, on their birthdays and at Christmas."

When you have a baby adopted, you don't ever get to see them again.
That isn't the only issue, the girl's health is seriously at risk by repetaed pregnancies necessitating c-sections.
It is this scenario that is trying to be avoided.

Cecilia said...

LD I should be interested to know what is considered to constitute having "the mental capacity to consent to sexual relationships" in your profession - ie what are the elements, what are the assumptions underlying the choice of what are the necessary constituent elements to be considered in establishing this capacity? I also wonder whether the psychiatric/psychological professions may tend to place the belief that it is a human right to have sex above the necessity of being capable of undertaking the responsibilities of marriage and parenthood?
Also, I wonder how much psychiatric/psychological input is actually available to the young womnan? In my part of the country psychiatric services for learning disability are patchy and inadequate and I know other areas of the country are like this, too. Far easier and cheaper to prescribe depo provera than give the young woman a moral education and provide the supervision she clearly needs. I also note you wrote sexual relationships (plural) and not sexual relationship.
(Having a disabled child I have become somewhat jaundiced over the years when it comes to accepting professional judgments.)

Grace said...

I'm not sure on this particular case, but I have worked as a care-worker with a similar girl. Similar in that she refused to use condoms, or would deliberately not take the pill. This girlhad been badly abused by her father and(if you will permit my pop psychology)used pregnancy as a means of overcoming this 'disrupted family syndrome'. She was not really sure about how to raise children (she couldn't travel on a bus without support workers - she wopuld get lost and be returned to our home by the police), but she 'wanted' children desperately. Three of her children were in care, and we (that is the care home and her support workers) decided to 'prevent' herfrom sex. We weren't really allowed to - she was 21 and so leglly could have sex - anyway, she had a boyfriend and was allowed to spend time in private with him, which is good. It is not good for the mental health of a person with such problems to be prevented fromhaving freedom or privacy. Well,she became pregnant again. We now oversee her taking contraception (pills)- we really have no option. Not sure why this woman can't do this,but I'm sure there is some reason.We had lengthy legal battles to do this, and we really considered our position. But, ultimately, we decided that with four children in care it was causing her more mental angush than it was worth (she was really sometimes having fits at the idea that she couldn't see her children,but it's not good for them to sometimes see their biological mother - the eldest was 5 and lived in a city over 200 miles away). I think it's hard to say what a good person should do here. I think we act in faith and pray to God for forgiveness if we wrong

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