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Child sterilization

Abstract

We are greatly indebted to the BBC and to certain contributors to the recent programme on child sterilization, televised from the Royal Institution, London, on 16 August under the title of `Controversy', for their permission to reproduce in this issue the opening remarks of the Chairman, Professor Sir George Porter, and those of the opening speakers - Mr Michael Brudenell, Dr Jack Bavin and Mr Ian Kennedy. Of the other participants, we thank Professor Peter Huntingford, Dr Brian Kirman, Professor Philip Graham, Dr Hugh Jolly, Mr Stanley Segal and Mr Frank Hooley, MP, whose contributions are also included.

A great deal of interest and controversy was aroused in Britain by the recent case of an II-year-old girl whom it was proposed to sterilize at the request of the mother because the child was the victim of a rare mental disorder. In the part of the televised programme which we reproduce below the case is argued for and against sterilization of minors in similar situations to that of the child under discussion. (That child was at the time the subject of a court order action.) The three experts who opened the discussion - a gynaecologist, a psychiatrist, and a barrister - on the whole were not in favour of sterilization although the gynaecologist said that if requested he would perform the operation on certain patients. The general discussion which followed supported the congentions of those who opposed the sterilization of minors who were mentally abnormal, arguing that there were other, less final methods of birth control. (Some of the audience, however, disagreed very forcefully.) The general conclusion was that to deprive any human being of essential rights without being able to foresee that person's future development could not be in the best interests of the child or of society. The full consent of society as well as of parents or guardians would have to be obtained. In short, the problem was more than a personal problem in the accepted sense.

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