Doctors and children
in Medicine, patients and the law (sixth edition)
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In this chapter, we examine the law governing doctors’ relationships with child patients. The courts are often asked to determine the fate of ill children when doctors and parents disagree about how best to care for the child. One recent example involved parents removing their five year old from hospital to seek treatment abroad. In another recent case a mother disappeared for days when the court ruled her son should receive aggressive treatment for his cancer. Very poorly babies born at the threshold of viability sometimes raise questions about the withholding or withdrawing of treatment. Older children can give consent if they are judged to have sufficient understanding to be considered ‘Gillick competent’, but they cannot necessarily refuse treatment that others consider to be in their best interests.

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