Consent and ethics: children and young people

Published: 13/08/2019


Working with children, young people and their parents

Gaining consent and dealing with uncertainty, reluctance or refusal of treatment in children and young people needs to be done with care and sensitivity. With increasing maturity and understanding, children and young people should be involved in decision making as much as possible. Professionals should allow time for reflection by both the patient and (where relevant) parent carers, and be prepared to answer questions, making clear that the best interests of the patient are their first responsibility.

All doctors working with children and young people should be familiar with the key principles of good practice in consent and allied ethical issues. There is some excellent guidance available, most notably from the BMA and the GMC:

British Medial Association (BMA) – Children and young people ethics toolkit 2010
A very useful series of guidance cards covering many areas including competence, consent, parental responsibility, best interests, refusal, restraint and research.

General Medical Council (GMC) – 0-18 Guidance for all doctors 2007
A clear summary of a doctor’s duties when working with children – covers similar areas to the above but also communication, confidentiality and child protection. The guidance found in this document is binding on all doctors in the UK.

General Medical Council (GMC) – Protecting Children – responsibilities of all doctors 2014

Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) – Mental Capacity Act (2005) at a Glance

Anaesthetists need to have a good understanding of the consent process in children and young people and are frequently asked to provide help and advice to other members of the perioperative team. These pages also provide useful advice on a range of related topics commonly encountered in hospital paediatric practice. They will lead you to additional important information on many issues that coincide with consent in children and young people. We have provided specific links to educational resources including bespoke virtual cases.