Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech Area Health Authority and another [1985] 3 All ER 402 (HL)

Consent – capacity -medical treatment – child – under 16

The law did not recognise any rule of absolute parental authority until a fixed age: parental rights were recognised by the law only as long as they were needed for the protection of the child and such rights yielded to the child’s right to make his own decisions when he reached a sufficient understanding and intelligence to be capable of making up his own mind.

In this case, a girl under 16 did not, merely by reason of her age, lack legal capacity to consent to contraceptive advice and treatment by a doctor. The court said that provided the patient, whether a boy or a girl, is capable of understanding what is proposed, and of expressing his or her own wishes, then there is no good reason for holding that he or she lacks the capacity to express them validly and effectively and to authorise the medical man to make the examination or give the treatment which he advises.

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