Court approval of irreversible medical procedures for children

In Re Jamie [2013] FamCAFC 110, the Full Court of the Family Court revisited the circumstances in which court authorisation for a medical procedure may be required. The procedures under consideration were for a childhood gender identity disorder. The child aged 11 was to be treated in order to suppress male features and changes at puberty.

The focused in particular on that part of the proposed treatment that would be irreversible and whether the parents could provide consent, without court approval.

The Court relevantly held:

  • In relation to stage two treatment…. court authorisation for parental consent will remain appropriate unless the child concerned is Gillick competent.
  • If the child is Gillick competent, then the child can consent to the treatment and no court authorisation is required, absent any controversy.
  • The question of whether a child is Gillick competent, even where the treating doctors and the parents agree, is a matter to be determined by the court.
  • If there is a dispute between the parents, child and treating medical practitioners, or any of them, regarding the treatment and/or whether or not the child is Gillick competent, the court should make an assessment about whether to authorise stage two having regard to the best interests of the child as the paramount consideration. In making this assessment, the court should give significant weight to the views of the child in accordance with his or her age or maturity.