Blogs

Courts Overrule Parent's Decision

22 Apr 2016

sara bird

by Dr Sara Bird

Judge's gavel

On 24 March 2016, the Family Court of WA ordered that a five year old boy with a brain tumour receive chemotherapy against the wishes of his parents. The parents wanted their son to receive alternative therapy only.

Medical evidence suggested that if combined chemotherapy and radiotherapy was given, there was a 50-60% chance of survival at five years.

The court found:

The question is not whether to respect the parents’ wishes. The role of the court is to exercise an independent and objective judgment and balance the advantage or disadvantage of the medical step under consideration. While the parents’ wishes may be relevant, they are not determinative …

The guiding principle upon which the exercise of the parens patriae jurisdiction is based, is that the welfare of the child is paramount …

Where faced with the stark reality that the child will die if lifesaving treatment is not performed, which has a good prospect of a long-term cure, it is beyond doubt that it is in the child’s best interests to receive that treatment.


Child's best interests the paramount consideration

In exceptional circumstances, where a child’s health or life is at risk as a result of their parents’ refusal to consent to treatment, doctors can make an application to the court for an order to provide treatment to a child.

The courts’ parens patriae and welfare jurisdiction confer a power on the courts to consent to the treatment of a child that exceeds that of their parents. In exercising this power, the courts must have the child’s best interests and welfare as the paramount consideration.

 

This blog contains general information only. We recommend you contact your medical defence organisation or insurer when you require specific advice in relation to medico-legal matters.

 
 

Library

My Career Journey with Dr Nick Coatsworth

Dr Nick Coatsworth is an expert in health policy, public administration and a practising infectious diseases physician. He held a national role in the Australian response to COVID-19 as Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Australia, becoming one of the most recognised medical spokespeople during the pandemic. Nick engaged the Australian community through a variety of media platforms most notably as the spearhead of the national COVID-19 vaccination campaign. Dr Micheal Gannon, Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, sits down with Dr Nick Coatsworth to discuss Nick's medical career journey, and what insights and advice he has for junior doctors. MDA National would like to acknowledge the contributions of MDA National staff, Members, friends and colleagues in the production of the podcast and note that this work is copyright. Apart from any use permitted under applicable copyright law, you may not reproduce the content of this podcast without the permission of MDA National. This podcast contains generic information only, is intended to stimulate thought and discussion, and doesn’t account for requirements of any particular individual. The content may contain opinions which are not necessarily those of MDA National. We recommend that you always contact your indemnity provider when you require specific advice in relation to your insurance policy or medico-legal matters. MDA National Members need to contact us for specific medico-legal advice on freecall 1800 011 255 or email advice@mdanational.com.au. We may also refer you to other professional services.

Podcasts

09 Jun 2022

Career complications and contending with uncertainty

Among the many challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic for junior doctors is how to respond to medical training impacts and career uncertainty. In this podcast, Dr Caroline Elton (a psychologist who specialises in helping doctors)and Dr Benjamin Veness (a Psychiatry registrar) share advice for coping with medical training and career delays, disruptions and unknowns.

Podcasts

10 Aug 2020