Children and young people who lack the capacity to consent
- You should involve children and young people as much as possible in discussions about their treatment, even if they are not able to make decisions on their own.245
- Where a child does not have the capacity to consent, you must get consent from someone with parental responsibility. Consent from one parent, providing that parent has the capacity to consent, is usually sufficient, but if parents cannot agree and disputes cannot be resolved informally you should seek legal advice about whether to apply to the court.
- Not all parents have parental responsibility. If the parents were married at or after the child’s conception, both will have parental responsibility, even if they have later divorced. Unmarried parents, both have parental responsibility, if they are named on the child’s birth certificate and the child was born on or after:
- 1 December 2003 in England and Wales
- 15 April 2002 in Northern Ireland
- 4 May 2006 in Scotland
- The legal framework for the treatment of young people who lack the capacity to consent differs across the UK. In:
- England, Wales and Northern Ireland, parents can consent to investigations and treatment that are in the young person’s interests
- England and Wales, treatment can also be provided in the young person’s best interests without parental consent, although the views of parents may be important in assessing the young person’s best interests
- Northern Ireland, treatment can be provided in the young person’s best interests if a parent cannot be contacted, although practitioners should seek legal advice about applying for court approval for significant (other than emergency) interventions
- Scotland, young people who do not have the capacity to consent are treated as adults who lack capacity, and treatment may be given to safeguard or promote their health.
245 General Medical Council (2018) 0-18 years: guidance for all doctors [Accessed 2 Dec 2020]