Termination, consent & decision making capacity affected by paranoia

Applying principles probably similar to those in Australia, a decision of the English Court of Protection Re SB [2013] EWHC 1417 (COP) considered the capacity of a woman suffering a bipolar disorder to consent to a termination of pregnancy at 23 weeks gestation.

Although a treating consultant psychiatrist gave evidence that he was 100% clear that she does not have the capacity to take the decision, the Court took the view that SB could have the termination (if otherwise lawful), saying at [37] and at [44]:

I unreservedly accept that the patient is currently mentally unwell……..That however is the beginning and not the end of the enquiry…


….even if aspects of the decision making are influenced by paranoid thoughts in relation to her husband and her mother, she is nevertheless able to describe, and genuinely holds, a range of rational reasons for her decision

The decision touched briefly on the legal rights position of the father, commenting:

But he has no independent right, as father, to prevent the abortion if the mother does have capacity and remains determined to have it and the doctors remain willing and lawfully able to perform it.

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