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Trust decides against legal action to force girl to receive heart transplant

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 24 November 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a2659

In the final paragraph of this News article by Clare Dyer (BMJ 2008;337:a2526, doi:10.1136/bmj.a2526) we gave the wrong legal position on consent and child patients. The correct position in English law is that a parent may give a valid consent to treatment even though the child refuses it, and a child’s refusal can also be over-ridden by the court. However, doctors would be unlikely to perform surgery such as heart transplantation in an unwilling teenage patient merely on the consent of the parents and without the authorisation of the courts. And, although they undoubtedly have power to do so, the case of Re M in 1999 (BMJ 1999;319:209, 24 Jul) indicates that the courts are reluctant to exercise their inherent jurisdiction to over-ride a child’s refusal if the child is old enough and capable of making an informed choice. In that case, where the parents wanted the heart transplant surgery and the teenage patient refused, although the court had power to over-ride her decision, the judge and the official solicitor took steps to find out whether she was capable of making an informed choice and decided that she was not.


Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a2659

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