BMA guidance

Children and young people ethics toolkit

Legal and ethical factors doctors need to consider when making decisions about children and young people such as consent, refusal of treatment and confidentiality.

Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Tuesday 8 September 2020
Topics: Ethics
Justice scales article illustration

What you'll get from this guide

  • The key legal and ethical factors doctors need to consider when making decisions about children and young people.
  • More detailed guidance on some of the more sensitive issues that can arise – for example, disputes, child safeguarding concerns, and access to sexual health services.
  • Signposts to other key resources – for example, guidance from the General Medical Council (GMC).

 

How to use this guide

This guidance will provide you with the key legal and ethical considerations you need to take into account when making a decision about children and young people (under 18 years in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; under 16 years in Scotland).

It is not a set of rules or instructions, or a substitute for careful reflection and discussion with colleagues.

You can seek additional advice on specific dilemmas from the BMA’s medical ethics and human rights department, the GMC, or your medical defence organisation.

Topics
  • Basic principles of children and young people's ethics
  • Assessing competence
  • Parental responsibility
  • Consent and refusal to a child’s or young person’s treatment
  • Child’s or young person’s best interests
  • Disputes of children and young people's best interests
  • Use of restraint to provide treatment to children and young people
  • Children and young people's health information
  • Unaccompanied minors
  • Children and young people's sexual activity 
  • Child protection
  • 16-17 year olds who lack mental capacity
  • Compulsory treatment for a mental disorder
  • Research and innovative treatment