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Sterilizing Minors and Incompetents

The sterilization of legal and mental incompetents is a legally risky endeavor because of a strong societal policy against forcing or coercing individuals to be sterilized. If a physician or other person uses the threat of withdrawal of federally funded services to coerce a person into agreeing to be sterilized, he or she commits a federal crime and is subject to imprisonment. The problem is that the courts tend to assume that coercion is involved whenever a minor or incompetent is sterilized. When a sterilization is otherwise medically and ethically indicated,[175] the physician should seek a court order approving the procedure. Under no circumstances should a minor be sterilized without the approval of the appropriate court in the state where the procedure is to take place.

[175]ACOG: Committee Opinion 63, Sterilization of Women Who are Mentally Handicapped. (Sept 1988).

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