Parental responsibility (PR) was a concept introduced by the Children Act (CA) 1989 which aimed to replace the outdated notion of parental rights and duties which regarded children as parental possessions. Section 3(1) CA 1989 defines PR as ‘all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child’. In exercising PR, individuals may make medical treatment decisions on children's behalf. Medical decision-making is one area of law where both children and the state can intercede and limit parental decision-making. Competent children can consent to treatment and the state can interfere if parental decisions are not seemingly in the child's ‘best interests’. This article examines the concept, and limitations, of PR in relation to medical treatment decision-making.
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