Anorexic girl loses appeal

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The Independent Online
YOUNG PEOPLE up to the age of 18 have no absolute legal right to choose their own medical care, the Court of Appeal ruled yesterday in the case of a 16-year-old anorexic girl who had refused specialist treatment, writes Heather Mills.

Lord Donaldson, Master of the Rolls, said a young person's wishes should be taken into account, but could be overriden. 'Good parenting involves giving minors as much rope as they can handle without an unacceptable risk that they will hang themselves,' he said.

But the ruling - that courts can always intervene in the child's best interest and that parents can also intervene when a child refuses treatment (but not if he or she consents) - was criticised yesterday as a serious erosion of the rights of 16 and 17-year-olds. For the past 20 years the law has treated them as adults on decisions about their health care.

The case was a test of the court's powers to overrule the Family Law Reform Act 1969, which said 16 to 18-year-olds had the right to agree to treatment and did not need parental consent.

Judgment a 'disaster', page 2