Terminally Ill Infants, Parents and the Courts

Medicine and Law, Vol. 24, No. 4, 2005

13 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2005

See all articles by Loane Skene

Loane Skene

University of Melbourne - Law School


Parents sometimes demand 'full active treatment' for a terminally ill child, even against medical advice. They think that they should decide their child's best interests, not medical staff, who may conclude too readily that the child's life is 'not worth living'. Only parents who know and love their child can decide that. Doctors and nurses, on the other hand, feel they have the training and experience to assess the pain and distress of heroic measures and whether they are justified in cases where a child cannot survive, or will have profound disability. This paper reviews recent case law in the United Kingdom and Australia on the role and processes of courts where a hospital (or a parent) applies for a court order regarding treatment. The author concludes that it is possible but unlikely that a court would direct medical staff to provide treatment they regard as clinically inappropriate.

Keywords: Treatment, non-treatment, withholding, withdrawal, infant, disability, disputes, court intervention, declaration

JEL Classification: K10

Suggested Citation

Skene, Loane, Terminally Ill Infants, Parents and the Courts. Medicine and Law, Vol. 24, No. 4, 2005, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=793004

Loane Skene (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne - Law School ( email )

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185 Pelham Street, Carlton
Victoria, Victoria 3010

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