This chapter discusses children’s medical treatment. It looks at the limits of parental decision-making, and cases in which the courts have overruled parental wishes in order to protect the child’s best interests. Courts may also be asked to resolve disputes between parents, or to make decisions about particularly controversial treatments. If a mature minor is Gillick-competent, she can give consent to medical treatment, but her right to refuse life-saving treatment may be more limited.
6. Incapacity II: Children
10. The Legal Position of Children
N V Lowe, G Douglas, E Hitchings, and R Taylor
This chapter charts the changing legal position of children. It starts by considering the former importance of the status of legitimacy and its near complete abolition. It then discusses the changing nature of the parent–child relationship and the development of the law from paternal authority to shared parental responsibility. Finally the chapter considers the developing notion of children’s autonomy and independent rights which has both limited the scope of legitimate parental authority and emphasised that the interests of children are a matter of public, as well as private, concern. This latter point is well illustrated by the growing importance of the role of the Children’s Commissioner.
This chapter deals with consent as a necessary precondition for medical treatment of competent adults. It provides an overview of the common law basis of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, followed by discussion of issues relating to information disclosure, public policy, and the key case of Montgomery and how this applies to more recent cases. It considers the statutory provisions for adults who lack capacity, exceptions to the requirement to treat patients who lack capacity in their best interests, and consent involving children under the Children Act 1989. Gillick competence, a concept applied to determine whether a child may give consent, is also explained. Relevant case law, including Gillick, which gave rise to the concept, are cited where appropriate.