Cash for vasectomy ‘exploitative and ethically dubious’ says drugs charity

Telegraph
18.10.2010
By Nick Collins

Martin Barnes, chief executive of DrugScope, spoke out after the 38-year-old addict, identified only as John, was given £200 in exchange for a vasectomy.

John, who has been addicted to opiates for 15 years and has been involved with drugs since he was 11 or 12, said the cash incentive spurred him into going ahead with the procedure.

Mr Barnes said: ”It is a fundamental principle of the NHS constitution that all treatment should be both informed and consensual; we believe that offering cash incentives to often very poor and marginalised people in return for sterilisation runs directly counter to this.

”It is exploitative, ethically dubious and morally questionable.”

He said the premise that people with drug problems should be sterilised ”further entrenches the significant stigmatisation and demonisation experienced by this group, making it less likely that people will come forward for help and support when they need it most”.

”And where should the line be drawn?” he asked.

”Potential parents experience a range of problems or circumstances which may present risks for the welfare of their babies and children.

”Who would be targeted next - people who smoke, have mental health problems, or live in poverty?

”Ensuring access to good quality treatment and welfare and safeguarding systems is the most effective, rational and humane approach to this complex issue, not sterilisation for cash.”

Project Prevention, the charity running the scheme, has made similar payments to thousands of men and women in America in a crusade to prevent them having children who may inherit their addictions.

The charity began offering the cash incentive to British addicts after paying 3,500 American men and women addicted to drugs or alcohol to be sterilised.

John said he was given 30 days to make a decision after calling the charity’s helpline, and had the operation on the NHS in September.

The woman behind the project, Barbara Harris, from North Carolina, said she set up the charity after adopting four children whose mother was addicted to crack.

She said: “I got very angry about the damage that these drugs do to these children.

But the scheme has attracted criticism from people who feel the charity is exploiting vulnerable people and led to accusations of social engineering.

A spokesman for Addaction, the drug and alcohol treatment charity, said: “Addaction firmly believes there is no place for Project Prevention in the UK because their practices are morally reprehensible and irrelevant.

The project also pays addicts to get long-term birth control including intrauterine contraceptive devices or a contraceptive implant.

Full article

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