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Is a Gillick-competent child’s refusal to consent to medical treatment determinative? Claire Watson appears for an NHS Trust

19th November 2020

X (A Child), is almost 16 years old and has been described by the Judge as “mature and wise beyond her years”. She suffers from severe sickle cell disease and has recently suffered from a sickle cell crisis for which her treating clinicians recommended a blood transfusion. X is a Jehovah’s Witness and refused to consent to the administration of a transfusion due to her religious beliefs. Following a life-threatening deterioration in her condition the court made an order authorising a single transfusion on an urgent basis on 29 October 2020. As X is at risk of further life-threatening crises necessitating further blood transfusions, the Trust seeks an anticipatory declaration for authorisation for further blood transfusions if clinically indicated on future admissions. X objects to the making of such an order and asserts that her decision to refuse life-saving treatment (blood transfusion) should be determinative as she has been assessed as being Gillick competent.

The issues before the Court are as follows:

a. Whether, following the Human Rights Act 1998 and other developments in the law, the refusal of life-saving medical treatment by a ‘Gillick competent’ child is determinative;

b. Whether it is lawful and appropriate for the High Court exercising its inherent jurisdiction to make a declaration that it is in X’s best interests to receive further blood transfusions in the event of any further serious deterioration in her medical condition, should this be clinically indicated during this or any subsequent admissions, until she reaches 18 years of age.

The hearing continues today. The earlier judgment on the urgent application in October is available here.

Claire Watson acts for the Trust and is instructed by Kiran Bhogal of Hill Dickinson.

See it in The Times here


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