Re M (A Child: Refusal of Medical Treatment) [1999] 2 FLR 1097

Consent – medical treatment – refusal

M was a 15 year old girl in need of an emergency heart transplant. She refused, however, to consent to the operation, saying that she “would rather die than have the transplant and have someone else’s heart”, and that she did not wish to take medication for the rest of her life. She also said that she did not want to die. The opinion of the Official Solicitor, instructed on M’s behalf, was that although M was an intelligent girl whose wishes should carry considerable weight, she felt overwhelmed by her circumstances and the decision that she was being asked to take. The Official Solicitor submitted that what was best for M was that the operation should be authorised by the court.

Allowing the application for leave to carry out the operation, the Court held that whilst M’s wishes carried weight, given her maturity and intelligence, she had gone through a traumatic experience and was struggling with a very difficult decision. The risks posed by the operation and by her possible future resentment at her wishes being overridden were both outweighed by the need to preserve her life.

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