§ Mr. Ron Lewis
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she will publish a table giving the number of alcohol-related deaths in the United Kingdom for the last five years, respectively.
§ Mr. Kilroy-Silk
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what guidelines are laid down in respect of the sterilisation of minors; and if operations on social grounds are allowed for.
§ Dr. Owen
As sterilisation cannot be carried out with any guarantee of reversibility and is, therefore, normally regarded as suitable only for men or women who have completed their families, extra care should be taken when considering the operation for someone who is younger. When this involves a minor it raises serious moral and ethical issues.
Guidelines, which include advice, on both vasectomy and female sterilisation were included in the Family Planning Service Memorandum of Guidance issued in May 1974 by my Department to health and local authorities. This set out details of the arrangements for the provision of the family planning service under Section 4 of the NHS Reorganisation. Act 1973. A copy of the memorandum was placed in the Library. The booklet "Consent to Treatment" issued by the Medical Defence Union advises that in the rare case in which sterilisation of a minor is under consideration the surgeon would be well advised to consult his defence organisation before carrying out the operation. Each proposed operation on whatever grounds is considered very carefully before any advice is given.
I have already indicated in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) on 24th April—[Vol. 890, c. 369.]—that these delicate issues are best decided after discussions with all those most closely concerned with any individual case, and I think it is always wise for at least two consultants to agree together before undertaking any sterilisation of a minor.