Adopted by the 63rd WMA General Assembly, Bangkok, Thailand, October 2012, and
revised by the 74th WMA General Assembly, Kigali, Rwanda, October 2023
The United Nations states forced or coerced sterilisation is a violation of fundamental human rights, including the right to health, to information and privacy, and to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The United Nations also states specific populations are disproportionately affected by forced or coerced sterilisation, including women, women living with HIV, indigenous and ethnic minority girls and women, persons with disabilities, and transgender persons and intersex persons.
The WMA recognises that no person, regardless of age, disease or disability, creed, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political affiliation, race, culture, sexual orientation, social standing, or any other factor, should be subjected to forced or coerced sterilisation.
A full range of contraceptive services, including sterilisation, should be accessible and affordable to every individual. The state has a role to play in ensuring that such services are available, along with private, charitable and third sector organisations.
As with all other medical treatments, sterilisation should only be performed on a competent patient after an informed choice has been made and the free and valid consent of the individual has been obtained. Where a patient is incompetent, a valid decision about treatment must be made in accordance with the patient’s best interest as well as with relevant legal requirements and the ethical standards of the medical profession before the procedure is carried out.
The WMA condemns practices where a state or any other actor attempts to bypass ethical requirements necessary for obtaining free and valid consent for sterilization, which must be:
- Free from material or social coercion;
- Not a condition of other medical care (including safe abortion), social, insurance, institutional or other benefits and
- Obtained when the person is not facing any stressor limiting their capacity of discernment, such as detention or a medical emergency (unless sterilization is the subject of the emergency).
Recalling the core ethical values of the medical profession enshrined in its International Code of Medical Ethics and the Declaration of Geneva: The Physician’s Pledge, and its long-standing commitment against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, the WMA condemns forced or coerced sterilisation and calls on:
Its Constituent Members
1. To advocate against such practices contrary to human dignity;
2. To support the provision of safe and ethical sterilization services or interventions, with due respect for the physical and mental integrity of the persons, including by guaranteeing their autonomous reproductive choices;
3. To be alert to situations and settings where there is a risk of forced or coerced sterilisation, particularly for vulnerable and disproportionately affected persons, to ensure consent is valid and freely given and to oppose any form of involvement in forced or coerced sterilisation.