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A Future Orientated View of Autonomy

Cave, Emma



L Forsberg

I Black

A Skelton

J Herring


This chapter considers qualifications to the view expressed by Lord Scarman in Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech Health Authority that ‘a minor’s capacity to make his or her own decision depends upon the minor having sufficient understanding and intelligence to make the decision’. Exploring the extent of the disjunction between the minor having capacity and the minor being able to make a determinative medical treatment decision, four limitations on the child’s power to decide are analysed. Parliament has legislated to impose certain age-based restrictions, policies have empowered parents to consent alongside children for certain treatments, judges can veto treatment refusals and both judges and clinicians can manipulate the threshold for Gillick competence. It shows that where current autonomy conflicts with a future orientated view of autonomy, the value of the child’s competent decision can be qualified by legal, clinical and policy mechanisms and explores the justifications.


Cave, E. (in press). A Future Orientated View of Autonomy. In L. Forsberg, I. Black, A. Skelton, & J. Herring (Eds.), Consenting Children: Autonomy, Well-being, Responsibility. Oxford University Press

Acceptance Date Oct 3, 2023
Deposit Date Jun 28, 2022
Publisher Oxford University Press
Series Title Proceedings of the British Academy
Series ISSN 0068-1202
Book Title Consenting Children: Autonomy, Well-being, Responsibility
Public URL
Publisher URL

This file is under embargo due to copyright reasons.

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