Chronicles of communication and power: informed consent to sterilisation in the Namibian Supreme Court’s LM judgment of 2015
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The 2015 judgment of the Namibia Supreme Court in Government of the Republic of Namibia v LM and Others set an important precedent on informed consent in a case involving the coercive sterilisation of HIV-positive women. This article analyses the reasoning and factual narratives of the judgment by applying Neil Manson and Onora O’Neill’s approach to informed consent as a communicative process. This is done in an effort to understand the practical import of the judgment in the particular context of resource constrained public healthcare facilities through which many women in southern Africa access reproductive healthcare. While the judgment affirms certain established tenets in informed consent to surgical procedures, aspects of the reasoning in context demand more particularised applications of what it means for a patient to have capacity and to be informed, and to appropriately accommodate the disruptive role of power dynamics in the communicative process.
KeywordsInformed consent Sterilisation HIV/AIDS Human rights Namibia Southern Africa
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
One of the authors of this study was involved in the litigation at the Namibian Supreme Court in support of the three respondents.
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