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Relf v. Weinberger

372 F. Supp. 1196 (1974)

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Relf v. Weinberger

United States District Court for the District of Columbia

372 F. Supp. 1196 (1974)

Facts

In 1974, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) Secretary Caspar Weinberger (defendant) published the Guidelines for Sterilization Procedures. The sterilization program was funded by Congress’s family-planning-services funds. The guidelines provided that (1) legally competent adults had to give their informed consent to sterilization by signing a document indicating that withdrawing consent will not affect any federal benefits received, (2) legally competent individuals under 18 years had to give written consent and a review committee had to find that sterilization was in the patient’s best interest, (3) legally incompetent minors had to issue written informed consent and receive a best-interest finding from a review committee and a state court, and (4) mental incompetents of all ages had to receive a best-interest finding from a review committee and a state court. The sterilization of mental incompetents could be triggered by the patient’s representative requesting the procedure and did not require informed consent. The National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO) (plaintiff) sued HEW on behalf of its members along with Katie Relf (plaintiff), representing all poor persons subject to involuntary sterilization in a class action on the ground that the guidelines authorized involuntary sterilizations.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Gesell, J.)

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