Secretary, Department of Health and Community Services (NT) v. JWB and SMB

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The court held that the applicants, as joint guardians of a 14-year-old child with a severe mental disability, were allowed to authorize the sterilization of the child without a court order, provided that (i) the circumstances were so compelling that the welfare of the child justified such an invasive procedure and (ii) there was no possibility of the child acquiring the capacity to decide for herself. Generally, it was established that children with the maturity and intelligence to fully understand proposed treatment can make such a decision even though they have not reached the age of adulthood. Parents or guardians of children who do not have sufficient capacity or maturity or intelligence to decide, can make such a decision on behalf of their children, provided that the treatment is in the child’s best interest. However, the parental ability to consent to sterilization is limited to circumstances in which sterilization is required to treat some malfunction or disease. In relation to non-therapeutic purposes, a court order is required to authorize sterilization.



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