For the first time, a High Court judge has sanctioned the decision to sterilise a man because fathering another child could “cause him psychological harm”.

The 36-year-old man from the Midlands, referred to as DE, has learning difficulties and does not have the capacity to make decisions about contraception, and so cannot be relied upon to use condoms or other birth control methods. His girlfriend of 10 years also has learning difficulties. They had a child together in 2010 and this was said to have a “profound” effect on the family.

DE lives with his parents but has been in a loving relationship with ‘PQ’ for 10 years. Since the accidental pregnancy, however, they have been under constant supervision to “keep them safe”.

DE has expressed that he does not want another child, and if they did have one it would be taken into care.

DE is incapable of deciding for himself whether or not he wants a vasectomy, and so the application was made by his local NHS Trust with support from his parents, his GP and the local authority involved in his care.

Mrs Justice Eleanor King sanctioned the application after hearing DE did not want another child, and that having one could cause him “psychological harm”.

King stated it is “lawful and in DE’s best interests” that he should undergo a vasectomy and all “reasonable and proportionate steps” should be taken to enable the operation to go ahead.

Once DE has had the vasectomy the couple will no longer need constant supervision, and so King said the decision was “allowing DE to resume his long-term relationship with PQ and restoring to him his lost skills and independence.”

The judge added that the couple’s relationship “nearly broke under the strain, but remarkably weathered the storm”.

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