Last updated:

Introduction to the children and young people ethics tool kit

You face ever more complex dilemmas when treating children and young people. High profile cases around child protection, access to sexual health services, and the vaccination of children highlight the sensitivity and difficulties you face.

Doctors need to know when a young person is competent and what this means in terms of their ability to consent and refuse health care, and what limits are placed on those with parental responsibility.

This tool kit does not give you definitive answers for every situation but it identifies the key factors you need to take into account when making decisions and signposts you to other key documents.

It contains a series of 15 cards covering specific areas in examining and treating people in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland who are aged under 18 years, and in Scotland under 16 years.

Other cards identify factors you should consider when assessing competence and determining ‘best interests’, and sensitive areas including child protection and access to sexual health services.

All the cards refer to useful guidance from other bodies such as the General Medical Council and the health departments, which you should use with the cards. The medical defence bodies and many of the royal colleges also produce specific advice for their members.

The tool kit is copyright free and we hope individual Trusts, medical schools and individual health professionals will download and adapt it to suit their own requirements.


Start using the toolkit



Full tool kit (PDF)