Assessing Gillick competence
Recently released figures from the
The United Nations Convention on Children's Rights defines a child as any person under 18. It requires that childhood is recognised as a developmental period and that our domestic laws must be developed ‘in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child’ (United Nations, 1989). As children grow and develop in maturity, their views and wishes must be given greater weight and their development towards adulthood must be respected and promoted.
This key principle is reflected in consent law as applied to children. Kennedy and Grubb (1998) argue that children pass through three developmental stages on their journey to autonomous adulthood:
The issue over whether a girl under 16 has the necessary competence to consent to maternity care was decided by the House of Lords in Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech AHA (1986), when a mother of girls under 16 objected to Department of Health advice that allowed doctors to give contraceptive advice and treatment to children without parental consent. Their Lordships held that a girl under 16 had the legal competence to consent to examination and treatment if they had sufficient maturity and intelligence to understand the nature and implications of that treatment.
Register now to continue reading
Thank you for visiting British Journal of Midwifery and reading some of our peer-reviewed resources for midwives. To read more, please register today. You’ll enjoy the following great benefits:
Limited access to our clinical or professional articles
New content and clinical newsletter updates each month