F v West Berkshire Health Authority Case Summary



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(Truth about events)

"The case concerned a 36-year-old woman who however had the mental age of a minor. The woman in question lived permanently at a mental hospital under medical care. Her mother sought a declaration from the court to the effect that it would be lawful to sterilize her daughter even though she cannot consent to the operation because of her mental age. They grounded the need for the application because hospital staff (as well as the mother) suspected that the daughter may have become pregnant as she had entered into a relationship with a patient in the hospital where she was staying. They feared that going through pregnancy and the birth would have serious negative consequences for the daughter." ()


(Facts + Relevant law)

1.Whether it was lawful for a doctor to perform such an operation on a patient who is mentally incapable of giving consent.

2.whether the court has jurisdiction to make such a declaration of legality to allow the doctor to carry out the operation.

3.whether such a declaration must be sought before such an operation can be performed.


(Primary Legal authority)

As a general rule Doctors or medical practitioners cannot carryout operation on patience without their consent.

The exception is patients who are mentally incapable of giving consent, here doctors or medical practitioners can carry out operation as long as a reasonable body of medical opinion skilled in the proposed treatment deems the treatment appropriate.

As a general rule courts have no jurisdiction to order medical operations. 

As a general rule medical practitioners need no legal declaration to carry out medical operation, they only need consent from the patient or the people responsible for the patience, that is if the patient is mentally incapable of consenting.


(Reasoning Process)

woman in question was mentally incapable of giving consent, thus the doctors or medical practitioner's grounds that her getting pregnancy and giving birth would have serious negative consequences make probably that the patient should be sterilized and this concise can be deemed appropriate by a reasonable body of medical opinion skilled in the proposed treatment of sterilization. Neither the mother nor the hospital staff need a declaration from the court to effect or legalize the necessary sterilization. It's not the jurisdiction of the court to legalize or order medical operation. Essentially Medical practitioner in the case could not get consent from the the mentally incapable woman in question but they could get it from the mother since her daughter was mentally incapable of consenting.



The medical practitioner can carry out the sterilization whether because the operation was lawful as it was in the best interests of the daughter.  This could be determined by reference to what is accepted at the time of the sterilization as the appropriate treatment, by a reasonable body of medical opinion skilled in the proposed treatment. it is unnecessary for a doctor to seek a declaration of legality before carrying out a sterilization in similar circumstances, but that a doctor should in practice seek such a declaration from the parents.


Teacher, Law. (November 2013). F v West Berkshire Health Authority. Retrieved from https://www.lawteacher.net/cases/f-v-west-berkshire.php?vref=1

Law Student, The University of Zambia

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