Consent for minors – do you treat children or young people?

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An article by Claire Squire, Balens Ltd.
The issues relating to the treatment of minors are full of contention, as a health and wellbeing professional you have a right to choose whether to treat those who are below the age of consent or not, but what does the law say?  And when should you ensure you have sort the consent of a parent or guardian? Below is a useful guest blog from Claire Squire at Balens, the specialist insurance brokers.
The policies Balens offer require that the consent of a parent or guardian be sought before treatment of a minor below the age of 16 and we would advise all therapist to abide by the terms as set out by their own insurance.  However, there is legal precedent for when this may not necessarily be the case and it is important that you consider the Fraser guidelines and Gillick Competency when treating children and young people (which our policies also give note to).
It is viewed in UK law that a minor can make their own decisions related to their health according to Gillick Competency and the Fraser guidelines where appropriate.  A UK Law Lords ruling in the early 1980s on the Gillick Contraception case states:
…whether or not a child is capable of giving the necessary consent will depend on the child’s maturity and understanding and the nature of the consent required. The child must be capable of making a reasonable assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of the treatment proposed, so the consent, if given, can be properly and fairly described as true consent.
And that:
“Parental right yields to the child’s right to make his own decisions when he reaches a sufficient understanding and intelligence to be capable of making up his own mind on the matter requiring decision.”
The Gillick Competence and the Fraser guidelines originally issued in connection with contraception advice, have since cascaded into other areas especially those concerning the health and wellbeing of the minor involved.  However, it is important if deciding to work in line with Gillick Competence that you can demonstrate how the competence was evaluated and that you have relevant experience/qualification to assess Gillick Competence as this will need to be proved if a claim is made.
Whether you choose to treat a young person or not without parental consent, based upon the above, will be individual to you and your own conscience. But regardless of this, do also bear in mind that the statute of limitation is much longer and may be overturned in the case of minors. This is why we always recommend you keep case notes indefinitely and include your rationale as to why you decided (or not) to treat /advise without parental consent, in order to defend a late discovered claim should the need ever arise.
For further advice and information on Insurance please visit Balens’ website.