Interactions of Law and Ethics Affecting Reproductive Choice

Medicine and Law, Vol. 24, pp. 549-559, 2005

11 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2010

See all articles by Bernard Dickens

Bernard Dickens

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law

Date Written: 2005


Controversies affecting reproductive choice can often be resolved within interactions of legal and ethical decision-making. This paper addresses three topics, following the methodology presented in Reproductive Health and Human Rights: Integrating Medicine, Ethics, and Law, by R.J. Cook, B.M. Dickens and M.F. Fathalla (Oxford University Press, 2003). The book's 15 case studies each addresses medical, ethical, legal and human rights aspects, and structural approaches at clinical, healthcare system and societal levels.

Sterilization: Individual self-determination supports legal and ethical rights of intellectually competent persons to sterilization. Sterilization of intellectually compromised persons was historically abused, causing reactions of excessively protective prohibition.

Abortion: Most developed countries have liberalized abortion legislation, thereby reducing abortion-related mortality and morbidity, but many developing countries retain repressive colonial laws. Over 95% of the estimated 20 million unsafe abortions annually occur in developing countries.

Court-ordered Caesarean Deliveries: A concern in developed countries is the willingness of some courts to order Caesarean procedures over competent women’s objections.

Keywords: Abortion, sterilization, court-ordered caesarian delivery, reproductive health, human rights, unsafe abortion, contraceptive sterilization, involuntary sterilization, integration of law and ethics, unsafe motherhood

Suggested Citation

Dickens, Bernard, Interactions of Law and Ethics Affecting Reproductive Choice (2005). Medicine and Law, Vol. 24, pp. 549-559, 2005. Available at SSRN:

Bernard Dickens (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

78 and 84 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5
416-978-4849 (Phone)
416-978-7899 (Fax)

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