Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Marchman Act Blog: Project Prevention is “exploitative, ethically dubious and morally questionable"

The United States charity, Project Prevention, is establishing a UK operational arm to offer £200 to any drug user in London, Glasgow, Bristol, Leicester and parts of Wales who agrees to be sterilised.
Project Prevention has attracted plenty of controversy since arriving in the country earlier this year. The programme is estimated to have already paid over 3,500 people in the United States to be sterilised or take long-term contraception. A 38 year old man from Leicester is the first in the UK to have agreed to be operated on in exchange for payment.

 Its director and founder, Barbara Harris, set up the organisation in 1994 after adopting four children born to a drug user in Los Angeles. The project is to yet to have received charitable status in the UK. Martin Barnes, DrugScope Chief Executive, said: “It is enshrined in law that the welfare of children is paramount. But the issues are much less straightforward when it is claimed that the welfare of unborn children should be put above all else.“Unlike the United States, we have universal, free health and social care system available to parents and their children. 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. 

“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? 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.”

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