The case of Ashya King has been a big story in the press recently. Ashya’s parents removed him from hospital in the UK to be treated for cancer in a hospital in Prague, as a result of a disagreement in respect of his treatment.
Whether these actions were justified or not, it has raised the question of what rights parents have over their children, and when they can make decisions on behalf of their children in relation to medical treatment.
A child under the age of 18 does not have the ability to refuse medical treatment that is considered in their best interests. However, a child who is judged to be competent can consent to treatment even if their parents do not agree that they should have the treatment.
Otherwise it is down to those with Parental Responsibility to consent to treatment. A mother automatically has Parental Responsibility when a child is born. In terms of the child's father, if the child was born after 1st December 2003, he will only have Parental Responsibility if he is named on the birth certificate with the Mother, or married to the Mother. Prior to the 1st December 2003, a father would only have parental responsibility if married to the Mother.
Usually, if there is one person with Parental Responsibility who consents, then this is sufficient for a procedure or treatment to be carried out. Medical practitioners can also carry out procedures or treatment in an emergency without any consent.
If there is a dispute between those with Parental Responsibility, then an application can be made to the Court, where a Judge will decide as to what treatment the child should have, after listening to evidence. In certain circumstances, a child can be made a ward of a Court, which means that the Court share Parental Responsibility with the parents to make decisions.
If there were concerns over the parents’ refusal of treatment or a procedure, then the Local Authority could also issue care proceedings to share parental responsibility with the parents, and consent to procedures. These can be issued urgently if there is immediate concern for the child’s wellbeing.
If you have any questions regarding your rights as a parent, be it if the Local Authority is involved, or disputes over who your child is living with, or seeing your child, a member of our team can help you. We offer a free no obligation first appointment to discuss your matter.
Contact us on 023 8064 4822 to arrange an appointment.