A High Court decision has made the rights of parents to choose non emergency treatments for their children a little clearer.
The case went to court after a local council and NHS trust tried to use the child protection system to send a 13 year old boy with chronic fatigue syndrome for psychiatric treatment against his parents’ wishes.
The boy, known as B, was referred for psychiatric care by a community paediatrician, who felt that because of his illness the boy, who had been off school for nearly two years and was being educated at home, had become socially isolated and in need of both cognitive therapy and exercise.
B’s parents disagreed with the doctors’ assessment of their child’s’ needs and took their challenge to the High Court. On the first day of a two day hearing, both Solihull Council and Solihull NHS Trust backed down. The council and the trust agreed to the court’s declaration that B’s parents were entitled to give or withhold consent to elective forms of treatment.
This judgement focused on the right of parents to decide the medical treatment their child should have in the context of a condition with an unknown cause and differences of medical opinion about appropriate treatment.
However, it is also likely to have implications for future attempts by social workers or doctors to forcibly impose forms of care on children against their parent’s wishes (BMJ, 1998; 317: 1102).