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Medical scientists urge end to forced sterilisations

A 1981 directive saw that sterilisation of mentally handicapped people could only take place if they could reason and gave their consent

The Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences has come out against the forced sterilisation of severely mentally handicapped people one year after the academy approved such a step under extreme circumstances.

In February 2000, the academy proposed forcibly sterilising mentally handicapped Swiss people who lacked discernment. The proposal was strongly criticised.

In place of last year's directive, the academy has published simple recommendations regarding sterilisation, laid down by their central ethics committee.

The committee has to complete the ammendments to the existing directive before it can be rubber stamped.

Sterilising those incapable of giving their consent will, for now, be prohibited. Further, psychiatric examinations will have to take place in every case.

While the approval of family members and those close to the patient is necessary, it is the person concerned who has the final say. They have to give their consent before any operation can take place.

Last year, associations for the handicapped and special needs teachers slammed the academy's directive.

The academy said the strong criticism influenced Tuesday's decision.

An earlier directive 10 years ago saw the sterilisation of mentally handicapped people who were capable of judgement, and their consent was needed for the operation.

swissinfo with agencies


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