Outrage over proposed WA law on children's right to be sterilised
MENTAL health experts have expressed concern at draft legislation being considered in WA that could give children with mental illness as young as 12 the right to decide if they want to be sterilised or receive electroconvulsive therapy [ECT].
The bill, for which the window for submissions to a public consultation process closed last week, says a child cannot undergo sterilisation unless ordered by the Family Court with an “exception… if the child has sufficient maturity and understanding to make reasonable decisions and therefore has the capacity to provide informed consent”.
The bill proposes a similar rule for people aged 12 to 18 undertaking ECT. It is set to be introduced in WA parliament later this year after the consultation process is completed.
Flinders University Professor Jon Jureidini said if a child’s parents would not or could not endorse a recommended treatment it was up to child protection authorities to determine the appropriate course of action – not the child who he said could not possibly understand the implications of their consent.
“It’s not a kid’s place to overrule it,” Professor Jureidini said.
“It’s like people for religious reasons refusing to let their kids have blood transplants. We don’t go to the kid and say ‘do you want a blood transfusion?’ We go through the appropriate legal and ethical child protection processes to override the parents’ wishes.
“There’s no reason why that couldn’t apply in these kinds of situations. There’s no need for putting a 12-year-old in a position of having to make a decision which, even if they were well, they couldn’t understand.”
Adolescent mental health leader and former Australian of the Year Professor Patrick McGorry said he was yet to read the draft bill but “it [does] seem a concern giving consent to young adolescents in the face of the parents’ and other people’s view".