Abdominal hysterectomy for surgical sterilization in the mentally retarded: a review of parental opinion

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1975 Aug 1;122(7):872-5. doi: 10.1016/0002-9378(75)90730-9.


Between the years 1950 and 1973, 152 abdominal hysterectomies were performed for surgical sterilization in patients who were mentally retarded. A retrospective follow-up study was performed to ascertain the opinions of parents, guardians, and institutional care workers charged with the care and responsibility of these patients since the time of the original operation. In the categories evaluated, over 90 per cent of those charged with the care of the patient were enthusiastic for the benefits achieved by hysterectomy rather than tubal ligation for the purpose of surgical sterilization.

PIP: This study reviews the experience of the author with abdominal hysterectomy for surgical sterilization of the mentally retarded between the years 1950 and 1973. During this period 152 patients were so sterilized. Age ranged from 10 to 48 years and parity ranged from 1 to 4 with 82.6% nulliparous. Of these only 92 were available for the follow-up study. Sterilization was done after recommendation by a psychiatrist or psychologist. Many were referred from institutions. In most cases there was little doubt as to the incompentency of these patients. None were mildly retarded. All had the parents' or guardians' consent. Total hysterectomies were done and in 2 cases ovaries were also removed because of ovarian pathology. The vast majority of parents or guardians were satisfied with the results of the procedure and felt the operation had produced no abnormal physical or behavioral patterns. Over 90% of those charged with the care of these patients were enthusiastic for the benefit achieved. Abdominal hysterectomy is considered the procedure of choice for surgical sterilization of the female retardate.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Hysterectomy*
  • Intellectual Disability*
  • Menstruation
  • Middle Aged
  • Parents*
  • Parity
  • Pregnancy
  • Residential Facilities
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sterilization, Reproductive*
  • Sterilization, Tubal