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Do we meet the sexual health needs of people with learning disabilities?

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26 August, 2013

The man already had a son but the judge ruled that a vasectomy could take place after hearing that another child could cause the man “psychological harm”.

Experts said he was capable of sexual consent but did not have the capacity to make decisions about contraception.

In an article in Nursing Times David Thompson outlined the following issues.“Opportunities for people with learning disabilities to have sexual relationships have changed enormously over the past two decades. When I started working in this area more than 20 years ago, it was in large institutions that generally kept people segregated from society. However, this did not prevent men from coming in and sexually abusing the residents, nor did it stop several men with learning disabilities seeking sex in public toilets. Staff generally discouraged relationships between residents in the institutions, which forced many to have sex in undignified places, anxious they would get into trouble if found out, even if they were being sexually abused.

The majority of people with learning disabilities live in their family homes, although others live in supported accommodations such as flats or group homes. While these might provide respectful settings for privacy and intimacy, there are often obstacles to overcome. These include persuading family and paid carers to accept sex is happening. Support over these issues is so rare that sexual contact generally continues to take place behind the backs of carers.

Some people with severe learning disabilities will not be capable of giving informed consent to sexual relationships.

Balancing their right to have relationships with the significant risk of abuse can be challenging.”

 

Full article:

Decisions about sex for people with learning disabilities

 

Readers' comments (2)

  • I believe that people are individuals and should be treated as such. There should not be a blanket judgement. I find it hard to believe that this man was deemed as being capable of giving concent to sex but was deemed to not have the capacity to make decisions about contraception

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • I too find it hard to believe that a man can consent to sexual activity but does not have the capacity to use a condom.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

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