The principle of respect for autonomy and the sterilization of people with intellectual disabilities

De Villiers, Suzanne (2002-04)

Thesis (MPhil)--University of Stellenbosch, 2002.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The implementation of eugenic policies reached its peak during the zo" century when thousands of people with intellectual disabilities and other "undesirable qualities" were involuntary sterilized. Although most of the eugenic policies have been removed, countries such as South Africa, still make legally provision for the involuntary sterilization of people with intellectual disabilities. Torbjërn Tannsjë (1998) used the "argument from autonomy" to argue that involuntary sterilization practices are wrong because it involves compulsion. According to him, society should never interfere with people's reproductive choices and people should never be required to qualify for the right to have children. The aim of this assignment was to systematically assess the "argument from autonomy" as far as the policy of involuntary sterilization of people with intellectual disabilities is concerned. To this end, the concept of autonomy and the principle of respect for autonomy are discussed and applied to the intellectually disabled. It is argued that autonomy and respect for autonomy are useful concepts to apply to some people with intellectual disabilities. These individuals should not be automatically assumed to be incompetent, but their competence needs to be determined on an individual level, with reference to the complexity of the decision to be made. Special effort is needed from health care professionals to obtain (where possible) informed consent from people with intellectual disabilities. The application of the principle of respect for autonomy to matters of reproduction leads to the conclusion that people with severe to profound levels of disability, are unable to provide informed consent for sexual intercourse. Therefore some form of paternalistic protection is needed for these individuals. People with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities who are however competent to consent to sexual intercourse should never be prohibited from procreation by means of involuntary sterilization. State interference in matters of reproduction should be limited to interventions where (i) children are seriously harmed by parents and (ii) to protect those who are incompetent to consent to sexual interactions with others. Apart from these exceptions, the intellectually disabled is entitled to the same procreative rights as all other citizens.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die implementering van eugenetiese beleid het gedurende die 20 ste eeu 'n hoogtepunt bereik met die onwillekeurige sterilisering van duisende persone met intellektuele gestremdhede en ander "ongewensde kwaliteite". Alhoewel meeste van die eugenetiese wetgewing verwyder is, maak lande soos Suid-Afrika steeds wetlik voorsiening vir die onwillekeurige sterilisasie van persone met intellektuele gestremdhede. Torbjërn Tannsjo (1998) maak gebruik van die "outonomie argument" om te argumenteer dat onwillekeurige sterilisasie praktyke onaanvaarbaar is omdat dit dwang bevat. Hy voer aan dat die samelewing nooit in die reproduktiewe keuses van mense behoort in te meng nie en dat dit nooit vir mense nodig moet wees om vir ouerskap te kwalifiseer nie. Die doel van hierdie werkstuk was om sistematies die "outonomie argument" te analiseer ten opsigte van die beleid van die onwillekeurige sterilisasie van persone met intellektuele gestremdhede. Met hierdie doel voor oë word die konsep outonomie en die beginsel van respek vir outonomie bespreek en toegepas op die intellektueel gestremde persoon. Daar word aangevoer dat outonomie en respek vir outonomie nuttige beginsels is om in ag te neem in kwessies rakende intellektueel gestremdes. Hierdie individue moet nie outomaties as onbevoeg beskou word nie, maar hul bevoegdheid moet eerder op 'n individuele basis beoordeel word, inaggeneem die kompleksiteit van die besluit wat geneem moet word. Voorts word daar van gesondheidsorgpersoneel verwag om moeite te doen met die verkryging van oorwoê toestemming (waar moontlik) by persone met intellektuele gestremdhede. Die toepassing van die beginsel van respek vir outonomie op aspekte rakende reproduksie, lei tot die gevolgtrekking dat persone met ernstige intellektuele gestremdhede nie in staat is om toestemming tot seksuele omgang te verleen nie. Dus, is 'n vorm van paternalistiese beskerming in hierdie gevalle aangedui. Persone met intellektuele gestremdhede wat egter wel bevoeg is om toestemming tot seksuele omgang te verleen, moet nooit weerhou word van voortplanting deur middel van onwillekeurige sterilisering nie. Inmenging deur die staat in kwessies rakende reproduksie moet beperk word tot intervensies waar (i) kinders ernstige skade berokken word en (ii) die beskerming van persone wat onbevoeg is om toestemming tot seksuele interaksies met ander te verleen, benodig word. Afgesien hiervan, is die intellektuele gestremde persoon geregtig op dieselfde reproduktiewe regte as alle ander landsburgers.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/53148
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