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Court: Mom Acted Wrongly In Arranging Son’s Vasectomy


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In a case centering on the rights of people with intellectual disabilities, a court has ruled that an Iowa mother overstepped when she arranged a vasectomy for her son with special needs.

The Iowa Supreme Court said in a unanimous decision Friday that Maria Kennedy should have obtained court approval before arranging a February 2013 vasectomy for her adult son with intellectual disability, reports The Des Moines Register.

Kennedy, who has had guardianship of her son since 2009, arranged for the procedure after becoming concerned that her son was in a relationship with a co-worker at at big-box store. However, the 21-year-old said he told his mother and the doctor who carried out the procedure that he did not want a vasectomy, according to court papers.

While guardians are empowered to arrange regular medical care and make emergency decisions, the state supreme court ruled that a vasectomy is a “major elective surgery” that would require a guardian to get permission from a judge.

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Comments (14 Responses)

  1. dusty metcalf says:

    This is rediculous. She has legal and medical rights over her son because he is not able to make these decisions for himself! Disabled people who can’t take care if themselves can’t take care of a baby human either. Is the mom supposed to support her adult child and the child he brings into the world unknowingly? Or is that the states job? Reproduction shouldn’t be a right. It is a responsibility that not all humans can handle. What happens to all these unwanted children of the world? Do they grow up to be peacemakers or drug addicts. Parents of the disabled are thee only ones who sshouild have any say in this.

  2. Dadvocate says:

    Not a hard call by the court. Unanimous, and correctly so. This was not an ER admit or matter of life and death. Too bad that the Doctor apparently didn’t know to differentiate. Educating people about the duties and responsibilities of guardianship, and the limits imposed by law, is not an area that is getting enough focus from disability rights oriented advocates.

    I think they’d be far more effective advocates by educating professionals like doctors and lawyers along with guardians (like parents), rather than toe this hard line of calling for an end to guardianship that I come across far too often.

  3. Rea Howarth says:

    Perhaps it would be wise for developmental experts and psychologists to be appointed as hearing officers or judicial officers with lawyers playing the role of advocates rather than judges. Society has a clear interest in erring on the side of caution in such cases.

  4. Nelsinia Wroblewski says:

    I am a parent too and I wanted to do that to my daughter but the more I work with youth with disabilities the more I changed my mind about this issue. This is a civil rights issue, each person deserve to be respected as a “whole” individual. It’ll be a disaster if each parent decide to take action just because they are their children’s guardian. The individual with disability should be involved on that process at the maximum extent so having a judge watching over these case is not such as bad idea.

  5. Susan says:

    If the young man was able to hold a job, there has to be some level of intellectual functioning, even if much younger then stated age. When did we stop teaching our children? Regardless of age, as a parent, you NEVER stop trying to teach your child. Why couldn’t the mother engage resources to help teach her son about relationships, if she didn’t feel confident to do that on her own? As a guardian, I don’t want to make those kinds of decisions on my own. We all need a “voice of reason” when dealing with emotionally charged issues. I agree with Guardian education boosters/refreshers, anything to remind us of our boundaries. You can’t teach what you don’t know or don’t have yourself. Just my thoughts.

  6. Ted says:

    “…Parents of the disabled are thee only ones who sshouild have any say in this.”
    I am sorry, but it is this type of thinking that has led to the rights of people with disabilities being left in the dark ages. This twenty-one year-old man said that he did not want a vasectomy. As an autonomous human being, he has the right to say what he wants done with his own body. Lobotomies, electric shock therapy, institutionalization, even death were all results of believing people with disabilities are unable to make their own decisions.

  7. Linda says:

    I support this mother. I am a mother of a 25yr old daughter. I want her to have relationships but there is no way she can take care of herself let alone a baby. What would the courts stance be if the mother did not look to the future and did not taking a proactive approach in preventing another human being brought into this already difficult situation. Would she be a irresponsible mother then for not trying to prevent possibly producing another special child brought into a very difficult situation. A child that the mother would have to take on and worry about how it would be once she was gone. People that do not have special needs children have no clue about what it is like to worry every day about every thing that their child does. It is hard enough for me to worry about my daughters well being let alone worry about her creating another human being. I have other children and I tried to teach them the responsibility of their actions and even tho they are not special needs they still make bad decisions, but I also know that they have the ability to deal with those decisions and outcomes. My daughter does not as I’m sure this mother felt also. If her son had the ability to take care of his own money and medical decisions ,which he didn’t that is why she is guardian, then we would not be having this post. If he can’t take care of his own, how can he take care of a baby. He should not be allow to make a one time mistake, which is all it takes.

  8. Linda says:

    Most of these comments must be from people that are not parents of a special needs child. To those, words can not educate you. I was once in your group. When your child says I want to be a doctor or a nurse. What do you say? I know what I said to my 3 other children. If you work hard you can be anything you want. I can not say that to my daughter. Even tho she says things she wants and doesn’t want, it is ultimately her dads and my decision on what is best for her. As far as health decisions, it is our responsibility to choose doctors that have her best interest in mind and with their input make those decisions together. NOT COURTS.

  9. Linda says:

    Nelsinia, how is this a civil right? What right are they giving up. Who is going to make sure she is taken care of once you are gone. What if she is talked into something she doesn’t understand or doesn’t want. You have to plan for when you will not always be there. They should not have children they can not take care of? That should not be left to them making the right decision. They can not make those decisions. I have seen what happens when it is left to them making their own decisions and the out come is very grim. I have seen severely disfigured children come from where steps were not taken. I have also seen girls that have had several abortions because they got pregnant and had no clue what was going on. It’s not that they don’t have the same urges and bodily desires as everyone else. So I agree with dusty, this is not a right it is a responsibility, our responsibility. I would rather have 100 vasectomys or tubal ligations that 100 abortions and babies born into a world of pain. There are too many born into bad situations as it is.

  10. Cindy says:

    I think the bigger error in judgement was made by the doctor who went ahead with the surgery… parents do the best that they can with the resources that they have. Education and options are what is needed, not punishment and judgement of the mother.

  11. Christal Hopkins says:

    I have CP and when I was eighteen my mom took me to my doctor and the three of us sat down and we talked about what I wanted to do in terms of having children. It was a very stressful time in my life because we had just lost my dad a few months earlier and so mt mom thought that it wasn’t a good time for me to make any major decision like that, so the only thing she ask me to do was wait a few years and then I could make my own decision, and what every I decided would be just fine with her. About five or six years later I decided to have an hysterectomy. By then my mom had come down with alzherimer’s disease, and no she couldn’t really help me with my decision, I knew she would have told that decision was mine to make. There would have been no way that my mom would have taken that decision out of my hands.

  12. givemeyourking says:

    If a parent has been appointed guardianship, then that’s who should make the decision. Nobody loves and worries over someone like their parent does. The son had already been ruled incompetent to take care of himself, the mother had guardianship, and she is trying to be responsible and think of his future.
    I truly, honestly, cannot understand why anybody would be upset that a person who is unable to take care of HIMSELF, should be unable to reproduce. Why would we encourage allowing severely mentally disabled to reproduce? The thought of what those babies could go through is heartbreaking.

  13. Lisa Ezeamii says:

    Interesting that the mother is in the legal trouble over this, and not the doctors who performed the procedure. I would think the legal onus would be on them to make sure they had proper consent for the procedure. Doesn’t every hospital have a legal and ethical staff?

  14. kristin Townsend says:

    I am so proud of the Iowa surpreme court for objecting this moms unlawfully decision . her sons over the age of 18 and is capable of making decisions for himself . She went against his own will . parents need to let their adult children with disibilities make decisions for their own selves .

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