Whilst an adult may refuse life-saving treatment and there are a number of examples where a court has ordered treatment of a young child against a parent’s religious preferences, this matter deals with the situation of a 17 year old, in a position to express his own wishes. Such persons are sometimes called ‘mature minors’.

The patient X, a 17 year old male, suffered a cancer condition called Hodgkin’s disease. X and his family as strong followers of the Jehovah’s Witness faith objected to him having a blood, or platelet transfusion. The medical practitioners foresaw a need for blood products, arising from anaemia caused by chemotherapy, failing which the patient was expected to die.

The hospital sought orders from the court permitting such treatment, including ancillary treatment which appears to have been a reference to sedation or the like, so that treatment could proceed.

The Sydney Children’s Hospital Network v X [2013] NSWSC 368 provides the reasons of the court in making the orders sought by the hospital.

Having regard to the ‘best interests’ test, notwithstanding the strong and genuine views taken by “X” and his parents in opposition to blood transfusions and notwithstanding that the effect of the orders may only extend “X’s” life for 10 months when he becomes an adult and may stop the treatment, the court was of the view that the orders sought should be made.

It has been held that, whilst the parents’ wishes may be relevant  considerations, they are not determinative. Further, in respect of older children, or young persons, sometimes described as “mature minors”, it has been held that, whilst the fact of such child or young person refusing to consent to treatment is a relevant and important factor, it does not prevent the Court from authorising medical treatment where the best interests of the child or young person require it.

 

 

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