Sexual Behaviour in Canada: Patterns and Problems

By Benjamin Schlesinger | Go to book overview

Parenthood and the mentally retarded *

BERNARD GREEN AND RENA PAUL

In this paper we examine the problem of the expression of sexuality of the mentally retarded from the perspective of their parents. Although we consider the utility and legality of various methods of birth control available to the retarded, we focus on one: sterilization. Our concern is even narrower; we examine only the problems associated with voluntary sterilization. Our discussion will show there are many difficulties - legal and social - facing conscientious parents seeking sterilization for their retarded child.1 For this reason we conclude with the draft of a model statute.


MENTAL RETARDATION AND METHODS OF BIRTH CONTROL

The development of retarded persons is permanently and (so far) irreversibly arrested. They are unable to learn or to mature, physically and socially, at the rate considered usual for their chronological age. Although now, with sophisticated training methods, they acquire skills never before thought possible, mentally retarded adults do not attain the degree of knowledge, understanding, and adaptive discrimination necessary for independent survival.2 This statement may sound pessimistic but it is one of the realities we must face in providing services to meet their needs.

In recent years, the philosophical pendulum in the care of the mentally retarded has swung from institutionalization to community-based services.3 The aim now is to help the mentally retarded lead lives as close to normal as possible,

____________________
*
Reprinted from University of Toronto Law Journal, 24 ( 1974), 117-125.

-115-

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