‘No’ is the hardest word: consent and children’s autonomy

GILMORE Stephen, HERRING Jonathan
Journal article citation:
Child and Family Law Quarterly, 23(1), 2011, pp.3-25.
Jordan Publishing

This article examines the relationship between children’s consent to medical treatment and children’s autonomy. The issue is at its starkest in cases in which children are refusing consent to medical treatment where a failure to undergo treatment might result in irreparable harm or death. The article provides a partial defence of the Court of Appeal’s controversial view in Re R and Re W that there can be concurrent powers to give effective consent to medical treatment in parent and child. The analysis also highlights a basis upon which these cases might be distinguished in a future case. The defence is based on emphasising the distinction between a refusal to consent and a refusal of treatment. The article argues that this distinction explains why in some cases a parent can have the power to consent, even where the child has refused to consent. It also examines some ethical justifications for maintaining a distinction between the law’s approach to consenting to treatment and refusing treatment.

Subject terms:
informed consent, law, medical treatment, parents, young people, childrens rights, ethics;
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