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12° Nicosia,
01 February, 2023
 
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Forced sterilization loophole in Cyprus raises eyebrows

Patient advocate springs into action after postnatal mom with intellectual disability ‘gets fixed’ by doctors

Newsroom

A woman in Cyprus has been made sterile without her consent, with reports saying people who live with intellectual disability and other disorders often “get fixed” through forced sterilization by power of attorney.

Local media said a Greek Cypriot female who lives with a mental disorder underwent forced sterilization after giving birth to her first child.

According to patient advocate Christakis Nicolaides, the woman had no idea she would undergo the procedure and was simply shocked when doctors told her “we got you fixed.”

“They informed her about this after the fact and the lady did not immediately understand when she was told ‘we got you fixed’ because that was an old expression,” he said.

'This practice was common in past decades in totalitarian regimes that aimed at protecting their race, their society, to block the birth of children with hereditary disorders that cause a disability'

Nicolaides said he believed the number of cases of forced sterilization were low in Cyprus but he warned that doctors grab an opportunity to carry out the procedure after they assess the birth of a first child.

“This practice was common in past decades especially amongst totalitarian regimes that aimed at protecting their race, their society, to block the birth of children with hereditary disorders that cause a disability,” Nicolaides said.

Nicolaides also said another woman without mental issues was sterilized after her doctors in Cyprus learned that she had married a person who had an intellectual disability.

“The problem is that there is no legislation in Cyprus that prohibits this and this year we hope this will change so that anyone who takes such action shall be legally liable,” Nicolaides said.

Coerced sterilization is not legal in the Republic of Cyprus but a loophole involving power of attorney has allowed third parties, such as siblings or family relatives, to request the procedure according to Nicolaides.

“Anyone can go to a court of law with documents from a medical doctor and show that a person lives with a disability and cannot handle his or her affairs, either property or decisions, and so the court grants someone power of attorney,” the patient advocate said.

Nicolaides also stated that his group was trying to close loopholes through patient advocacy efforts.

“We hope legislation against forced sterilization will go through this year,” he added, adding that principles of right to privacy and right to family life also apply to persons living with a disability, “who are still in a position to raise their children.”

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