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British court OKs vasectomy for man with low IQ

| Friday, Aug. 16, 2013, 9:33 p.m.

LONDON — A man who lacks the capacity to give informed consent can be given a vasectomy since he made repeated requests not to have more children, a British court ruled Friday.

The 36-year-old man, known only by his initials DE, has an IQ of 40, lives with his parents and has a long-term girlfriend who has severe learning disabilities.

In 2009, DE's girlfriend became pregnant and had a child. According to the court ruling, DE insisted he did not want any more children. People with his IQ level have a mental age of between 6 and 9, according to an independent psychiatrist cited in the ruling.

His doctors and parents then applied to the court for the vasectomy, because DE doesn't have the mental capacity to understand the procedure's implications. The judge ruled that it is “overwhelmingly in DE's best interests” to have a vasectomy.

Experts said DE was able to consent to a sexual relationship and that a vasectomy would give him a measure of independence. Attempts to teach DE how to use condoms failed.

Britain's Court of Protection regularly makes decisions for people lacking mental capacity. It previously authorized the sterilization of some intellectually challenged women, but this is the first time a vasectomy has been authorized on the grounds that it is in the man's “best interests.”

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