Castles v. Secretary to the Department of Justice

This case challenged a decision by the Secretary of the Department of Justice to refuse Ms. Castles’ access to in vitro fertilization (“IVF”) treatment, while she was in a low security prison.  Prior to her imprisonment for social security fraud, Ms. Castles was undergoing IVF treatment.  Although she was sentenced to only 18 months of imprisonment, Ms. Castles was nearing the age at which IVF would no longer be available to her.  Ms. Castles sought a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief to enable her to continue IVF treatment to conceive a second child with her husband.  The question decided by the Supreme Court was whether access to IVF is inherent in the right to respect privacy and family life.  The Supreme Court acknowledged that although incarceration necessarily involves a limitation of the right to liberty, it places an additional burden on the State to preserve human dignity.  International agreements, including CEDAW and ICESCR, recognize that decisions concerning the number and spacing of children, and access to health services, including in the area of sexual and reproductive health, are an aspect of the inherent dignity of a person that underlies all human rights.  The Supreme Court held that the requirement to give proper consideration to human rights required the decision-maker to consider the possible impact of the decision on a person’s human rights, but that this need not be a sophisticated legal exercise.  The Supreme Court further ordered the Department of Justice to allow Ms. Castles access to the relevant medical treatment, subject to an assessment of any countervailing security or other concerns on a visit-by-visit basis.



Avon Center work product