Report No. 196
(23) Re SG (Adult mental patient: Abortion: 1991(2) FLR 329 (Sir Stephen Brown).
This was case of a pregnant, severely mentally handicapped 26 year old lady. A termination had been recommended by her GP and a consultant gynaecologist. In the light of the House of Lord's decision in Re F, her father sought a ruling as to whether a formal declaration of the Court was required before a termination of pregnancy was performed.
The Abortion Act 1967 permitted termination if there was certificate by two medical practitioners to the effect (a) that the continuance of pregnancy would involve risk to the woman's life or injury to her physical or mental health or to that of any existing children, outweighing the risks of terminating pregnancy; or (b) that there is a substantial risk that the child if born would suffer from a physical or mental abnormality such as to be seriously handicapped.
The question is whether, in the case of mentally incapacitated woman, the declaration of the Court was necessary.
Stephen Brown P held that the termination of a pregnancy was already closely regulated by the Act which provided 'fully, adequate safeguards for doctors who are to undertake this treatment' (at p 331). He held that it was not necessary to seek the special approval of the High Court before the termination of a pregnancy, provided the three conditions in section 1 of the Abortion Act were complied with. (Stephen Brown J had said the same thing in Re GF (medical treatment) 1992(1) FLR 293) He, however, said that this was a developing branch of law and that the Law Commission or the Medical Ethics Committee of the British Medical Association could go into the matter.