Melbourne Law School - Theses

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    Sterilisation decision making and the Family Court: the far bridge or the fields?
    RHOADES, HELEN ( [1997])
    This thesis is about the "sterilisation" jurisprudence of the Family Court of Australia. It is also about the nature of "judging" and the stories that have been told about young women with intellectual disabilities in sterilisation cases. The focus of the thesis is on the ways in which particular stories selected by judges have come to tell the "truth" about those young women, even though there are other versions that could lead to different conclusions. In recent years critical legal scholars have become attentive to the role that "storytelling" plays in the law, and especially in the judicial context. The justification for such an approach in this thesis is a belief that the consequences of judicial decision making are not just legal, but include the possibility of "particularly grave" material effects for the particular women in sterilisation cases, and for all young women described as "intellectually disabled". At the time of writing there have been 7 reported sterilisation decisions of the Family Court. In none of the judgments is the "voice" of the young woman heard. What is known about her has been told by others. Some of the stories are told by people who know her well, some are told by "expert witnesses" who have never met her. The people whose views have been privileged by the Court are doctors and parents. Ironically, the need for court based sterilisation decision making arose out of a desire to ensure that the views of doctors and parents did not displace the interests of children with disabilities. (From introduction)