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12/01/2017 - Can I refuse medical treatment

12/01/17 - Female, 14 :

Am I within my rights to refuse medical treatment? My mum wants me to have a procedure that the doctor has said is only really necessary from an aesthetic point of view. I don't agree with it and I don't want it, but Mum says if the doctor is willing (which she is) I have to have it done. Can I say no or is it Mum's decision?

Ali says -

Yes you are within your rights to refuse medical treatment.  NHS England states that “A child (anyone under 16 years old) can consent to treatment as long as they have enough understanding and intelligence to fully appreciate what is involved in their treatment.” This is known as being "Gillick competent”.  Gillick competent means that a young person can use information and advice to understand a situation and that they have a sufficient level of maturity to understand what is involved.  Giving consent means giving your permission for something to happen.  

Additional consent by a person with parental responsibility (your mum) is not required.  NHS England goes on to say “It is a legal and ethical principle that a person must give valid consent before they receive any type of medical treatment. Consent is required from a patient regardless of the treatment, from a blood test to major surgery.”  Therefore if your doctor thinks you understand the situation fully and what would be involved in the treatment, you are within your rights to refuse medical treatment.

In cases where a young person’s refusal to consent could lead to death or permanent  injury a court of law could over rule you.  This would not apply to you as you state that the doctor says this treatment is only necessary from an aesthetic point of view which would imply that your physical health is not affected.

View the NHS guidance on children’s right to refuse treatment here 

You can also look at the NSPCCs information on a Child’s legal rights here

It’s an important life skill to be able to make an informed decision or informed choice.  As a young person and as an adult you will face many situations where you are better placed to make a decision if you have good information and access to advice. 

People often want to discuss important decisions with people they are close to, so that they can get their opinion and support.  For the same reason people also choose to look in to their  options and the problems they may face with a range of professionals.  This can from a travel agent who helps you choose and decide on a holiday to a solicitor who helps you to buy a house.  We all need information, advice and support to make key decisions in life.

For further support you could speak to a school nurse or explore the option of counselling.  Take your time, its ok to want to make this decision and to want to talk about it.  You might want to speak to your doctor again and look at other options such as whether you could look at the procedure again in 2 or 4 years and what the impact of this would be on you.  Because your mum disagrees this could affect your relationship. You may wish to find time and space to discuss the situation with her so that you can understand why her preferred choice is different to yours. In the same way you can share with her your thoughts, feelings and opinion with her as she might not know why you are saying no to the procedure.  Depending on the procedure there could be a national or local support group or relevant specialists at your local hospital that could support both you and your mum make an informed decision.  This would help you both to learn from the experience of other people and possibly teenagers and parents who have been in your situation.

It is important to be happy and confident when making big decisions so explore the positive and negatives of the procedure and any options available to you.


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