Arch Dis Child doi:10.1136/adc.2010.198432
  • Review

The limits of parental responsibility regarding medical treatment decisions

  1. Sarah L Woolley
  1. Correspondence toDr Sarah L Woolley, Consultant Emergency Medicine, University Hospitals Bristol NHS FT, Bristol BS2 8HW, UK; davidandsarahsmith{at}
  • Accepted 3 November 2010
  • Published Online First 10 January 2011


Parental responsibility (PR) was a concept introduced by the Children Act (CA) 1989 which aimed to replace the outdated notion of parental rights and duties which regarded children as parental possessions.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.


  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Responses to this article

Free sample

This recent issue is free to all users to allow everyone the opportunity to see the full scope and typical content of ADC.
View free sample issue >>

Don't forget to sign up for content alerts so you keep up to date with all the articles as they are published.

Navigate This Article