Sunday, January 22, 2012

The culture of death and rights of those with mental illness

9:23:15 PM
Massachusetts judge ordered forced abortion and sterilization of mentally ill woman

It is difficult to imagine a case better scripted for a discussion of informed consent than Mary Moe’s Massachusetts abortion.
When Mary Moe, a pseudonym for a 32-year-old woman with schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, visited a hospital emergency room in October, it was discovered that she was pregnant. This meant that she could not take her psychiatric medication as it would harm the foetus. So the state Department of Mental Health applied to have the woman’s parents named as guardians so they could give consent for an abortion.

However, Mary did not want to have an abortion. Although she was not completely coherent, she insisted that she was “very Catholic” and would never do such a thing. She knew what abortions were, as her first pregnancy had been aborted. (She subsequently gave birth to a son, whom her parents are caring for.)

The case went before Judge Christina Harms, a Harvard Law School graduate and a former lawyer in the State’s welfare services. Judge Harms ordered Mary Moe to have an abortion. If she were intransigent, she could be “coaxed, bribed, or even enticed’’ into the hospital. Furthermore, the judge wanted to put an end to these distressing pregnancies. She ordered Mary More to be sterilized “to avoid this painful situation from recurring in the future.’’ Harms reasoned that Mary Moe was not competent to make a decision about an abortion, because of her “substantial delusional beliefs.” But if she were competent, she would choose to abort the child.

In the event, Judge Harms was overruled. “The personal decision whether to bear or beget a child is a right so fundamental that it must be extended to all persons, including those who are incompetent,’’ said the state appeals court. As for the sterilization, said one of the appeals judges, “The judge appears to have simply produced the requirement out of thin air.”

The publicity given to this unusual case has led mental health advocates to wonder how often women are forcibly aborted and sterilised. “I didn’t realize that forced sterilizations were going on anywhere,” said Howard Trachtman of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Massachusetts, told the Boston Globe. “If a precedent were set for that, then you could see a whole slew of people filing for it, or trying to get judges to order it.” “Simply having a diagnosis of schizophrenia or any other mental illness is not a basis for sterilization in and of itself. It’s just sheer prejudice,” Elyn Saks, of the University of Southern California, told the Boston Herald. ~ Boston Globe, Jan 18
Dorothyann Sarsok's avatar
Dorothyann Sarsok· 19 hours ago
I am the oldest daughter of 5 children born to a mother diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. So this issue is a very personal one for me ... and as such ... here is what I have to say on the matter. In spite of the suffering, and yes abuse and neglect, which I and my 4 other siblings suffered at the hands of a schizophrenic mother, I for one, am still thankful for my LIFE, which with the grace of God, I have grown to be a wife, mother and grandmother, who is very active in the pro-life movement. The abuse we suffered was not because we were born of a mentally handicapped woman, but because of others who did not assist our mother in caring for us .. and that's the way I see it. I am GLAD TO BE ALIVE!
1 reply · active 15 hours ago
marilyn matthews's avatar
marilyn matthews· 15 hours ago
thank you dorothyann for speaking out ...your mother didn't ask to be a paranoid schizophrenic and I know you know that..unfortunately not everybody else knows that or maybe just don't CARE..and the lack of help for your mom is global...its just so much easier to write off everyone who doesn't "fit the NORM" in this selfish world ...thank GOD for people like you that know that a mother will NEVER be perfect...

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