The High Court has ruled that a woman with severe learning difficulties should be allowed to make her own choice about whether or not to continue with her pregnancy.
The decision comes after concerns were raised that she lacked capacity to make the decision. However, the judge said that people who lack mental capacity in some aspects of their lives should be able to make “deeply personal decisions“.
The woman, who is 18 weeks pregnant, was born with the blood disease sickle cell anaemia. This means her red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body, are sickle-shaped as opposed to disk-shaped.
This increases the chance of blood vessels becoming blocked, which can cause a stroke if it happens in the brain. The woman now lives with her mother and sisters after having a series of strokes which left her with learning difficulties. The court heard she was in the bottom 1% of the population in terms of intellectual function.
She was awarded substantial damages resulting from her medical treatment. However, she was not capable of dealing with the money so two deputies were appointed. A solicitor acting as the young woman’s deputy expressed concerns about her capacity to decide whether to continue with her pregnancy.
Psychiatrist Dr Stephen Tyrer told the Court of Protection at the High Court in London, that the woman had the capacity “to decide whether or not to continue with, or terminate, pregnancy“.
Mr Justice Hedley said “it is right to observe that both expert and professional and family evidence in the case is it would be in her best interests to continue with the pregnancy, but that is out with the jurisdiction of this court“. He said those who were unable to function individually “may very well retain the capacity to make deeply personal decisions about how they conduct their lives“. This included areas such as relationships and whether to continue with or terminate a pregnancy.