In 2014, the Supreme Court of Namibia (“Supreme Court”) affirmed the High Court of Namibia’s (“High Court”) decision in LM and Others v. Government of the Republic of Namibia that sterilization procedures require informed consent. The three respondents sued the Namibian government, alleging that doctors at state hospitals forcibly sterilized them without their consent in violation of their constitutional rights. They claimed that the forced sterilizations left them unable to bear children, ruined their marriage prospects, constituted discrimination against them based on their HIV status, and caused ongoing pain and suffering. The defendants argued that the plaintiffs’ claims lacked merit because they consented to the procedures. The court found that the alleged “consent” was deficient because the defendants failed to prove that they adequately informed the plaintiffs of the consequences of sterilization, or that the plaintiffs clearly and knowingly consented to the procedures before they went into labor. However, the Court found no evidence that the complainants were sterilized because of their HIV status and dismissed that claim. Emphasizing the serious personal nature of the decision, the Supreme Court stated that the decision to be sterilized “must be made with informed consent, as opposed to merely written consent” (¶ 3). The Supreme Court stated that the choice to undergo a sterilization procedure must lie solely with the patient noting that “there can be no place in this day and age for medical paternalism when it comes to the important moment of deciding whether or not to undergo a sterilisation procedure.” (¶ 106). The Supreme Court also denounced the practice of obtaining “consent” for sterilization during labor noting that patients may not fully appreciate the consequences of giving their consent when experiencing the immense pain involved in labour. The Supreme Court also agreed with the lower court that plaintiff-respondents did not provide any evidence that they were sterilized because of their HIV status.
Government of the Republic of Namibia v. LM and Others