Castration decided in Best Interests of Children18-November-2010 Family Law By Mark Streeter
Most parents want what is best for their child. If a child breaks their arm parents need no special permission to have it operated on and fixed. However consent to perform surgery on special medical conditions is not so easy. In a recent Family Law case [Sean and Russell (Special Medical Procedures)] the castration of two boys was presented to the Courts for a decision.
With headlines of “Judge Allows Parents to have Boys Castrated”, Kim Arlington, journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald sensationally reports on a Family Court decision by Justice Murphy delivered 26 October 2010. The facts of this case are special, sad and serious and belie the sensationalist headlines.
In respect of two applications heard by the Court at the same time two young children known by the pseudonyms “Russell” (an 18-month-old boy) and “Sean” (a 3 ½ year-old boy) had both been diagnosed as having Denys-Drash syndrome. It was the specialist medical advice received by parents of both these children that the gonads of the boys be removed for their own health and to prevent some of the effects of the Denys-Drash syndrome. It is thought that these two children are the only two people in Australia that suffer from this condition. The medical evidence was that the boys would develop tumors (cancer) in their kidneys and their testes.
It was acknowledged that the removal of the testes would render both of the children infertile, however the consensus of medical opinion was that by reason of the syndrome each child was almost certainly likely to be infertile even without the proposed surgery. The parents of the children applied to the Family Court for approval and authorisation in order to instruct the treating doctors to conduct the surgery.
Comment from Mark Streeter Sydney Family Law Lawyer
Justice Murphy, after an extensive review of the previous cases and legislation relating to this area of the law, found that the proposed treatment was more consistent with securing the children’s best long term outcomes both physically and psychologically and the authorisation of the proposed treatment was in the children’s best interests. The Judge made orders authorising the treatment.
In order to protect the identity of both the children, parents and treating doctors, the names of these parties were anonymised. Section 121(9) of the Family Law Act 1975 prohibits publication of information which identifies a party in Family Court proceedings.
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