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End- of- life decisions and minors: do minors have the right to refuse life preserving medical treatment? A comparative study.
The principles of the right to informed consent and informed refusal are quite clear for competent adult patients. The right of a competent adult patient to give his informed consent before medical treatment can be started, is a patients' right that is recognised all over the world. The logical corollary of the right to informed consent is the right to informed refusal. A competent adult patient also has the right to refuse medical treatment by simply withholding or withdrawing his consent. A physician who starts medical treatment without the informed consent of his patient will be held liable for battery. Can these same principles be applied to minors? In other words: do minors also have the right to refuse medical treatment? Can a minor refuse even life preserving care? The interests of the involved parties (minor, parents and state) have to be weighed against each other case by case. A thorough examination of the available case law shows that the best interests of the minor are paramount. This "best interests" standard guides judges in their making of a decision. However, this is certainly not always in accordance with reality. In fact, minors can be mature enough to refuse treatment at a much earlier time than the age of legal majority, whatever the consequences of that refusal may be.
Pub Type(s)Journal Article