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'Leaving no stone unturned': contesting the medical care of a seriously ill child

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-09, 05:40 authored by Jo BridgemanJo Bridgeman
Recent cases concerning disagreements over the medical treatment of a child with cancer prompt consideration of the effectiveness of the courts in the resolution of conflict over the best interests of a seriously ill child. With reference to studies of parents whose child has received treatment for cancer, this article explores parental experiences of the increased vulnerability and dependency of their child, intensification of the parenting role, loss of control and dependency upon healthcare professionals. With a lengthy treatment plan delivered by a multi-disciplinary team causing serious and distressing side-effects in the effort to save life, parental concerns can arise about their child’s care from which disputes over treatment develop. In their endeavours to secure the very best treatment for their child, ‘leaving no stone unturned’, parents may reject the advice of the treating team. This article examines recent cases concerned with the treatment of a child for cancer within the context of the wider body of case law in which a dispute has developed from a disagreement between parents and professionals over the medical treatment of a young and dependent child. It argues that if parents, determined to secure what they consider to be best for their child, cannot agree with the treating team they are unlikely to be persuaded that the judge knows what is best for their child and resist the imposition of the decision of the court. In such circumstances, court intervention may protect doctors from legal action but not protect the best interests of the child. It is argued that rather than emphasise, as the current legal framework does, the need for court orders in cases of disagreement, emphasis should be placed upon the legal duties of professionals to work together with parents to secure the best interests of the child and the responsibilities of the Trust to support both in this endeavour taking all possible steps to attempt to resolve the disagreement without the need for court intervention.


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  • Published

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Child and Family Law Quarterly




Jordan Publishing





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  • Law Publications

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