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Doctors illegally sterilising disabled girls: claim

Four Corners tonight explores the fraught moral issue of whether, and in what circumstances, disabled people should be sterilised. Meanwhile, the Victorian Public Advocate this morning is reported in The Age as saying that doctors are already doing it illegally.

Victorian doctors are carrying out illegal sterilisations of intellectually disabled girls and young women, according to the state's Public Advocate.

The advocate, Julian Gardner, has called for an overhaul of the approval system for sterilisations.

"I have spoken to parents who have had operations done unlawfully and to doctors who say these operations go on," Mr Gardner told The Age. "This is a matter of grave concern, because fundamental human rights are at stake. Sterilisation is irreversible and therefore should only be done with proper safeguards."

It was impossible to say how widespread the practice was in Victoria, Mr Gardner said. By law, parents and guardians must apply to the Family Court for permission for non-therapeutic sterilisation procedures to be performed on children.

The ABC's flagship current affairs program Four Corners will be tackling the same issue tonight and intends opening an on-line forum for public discussion at the conclusion of the broadcast. Further details at the Four Corners website link below.

The Age

16 Jun 2003