Insights & advice

Pregnant woman with learning difficulties ‘can make choices’

A woman with learning difficulties is capable of deciding for herself whether to continue with her pregnancy, the Court of Protection has ruled.

The Court oversees the rights and welfare of people who lack the mental capacity to make their own decisions.

It was called on to consider the case of a woman whose learning difficulties place her in the bottom one per cent of people in terms of intelligence. She is 18 weeks pregnant. Concerns were raised as to whether the Court should intervene on her behalf in deciding if she should continue with her pregnancy.

However, the judge held that she was capable of making that decision for herself. Mr Justice Hedley said a person’s inability to make decisions in some areas didn’t mean they couldn’t make decisions in other aspects of their lives. He said they “may very well retain the capacity to make deeply personal decisions about how they conduct their lives”.

The Court heard evidence from psychiatrist Dr Stephen Tyrer that the woman had the capacity “to decide whether or not to continue with, or terminate, pregnancy”.

Concerns had been raised about the woman’s ability to look after a child but Mr Justice Hedley said that was not relevant to what the court was being asked to consider. “Once the child is born, if the mother has no capacity to care for it, society has got perfectly adequate procedures for dealing with that.”

The Court of Protection has jurisdiction over the property, financial affairs and welfare of people who lack mental capacity. It can appoint deputies to make decisions on a person’s behalf if that person lacks the ability to make their own decisions.

Please contact us in our Warminster office on 01985 214444 or Westbury on 01373 865577 if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any matter relating to the Court of Protection.


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Just a short note to once again express my sincere thanks to you, Sue and the M&U team, for all your help, cooperation and first class professional support. I am most grateful to you all.

Chris Stephenson, Warminster

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