Medical Practitioners, Adolescents and Informed Consent

When can a young person withhold consent to medical treatment? Recent international, European and domestic legal developments emphasise a growing recognition of young people’s autonomy and privacy human rights.

Recent guidance from the Department of Health (2009) recognises that aspects of the law on adolescent refusals to consent have not been tested post-Human Rights Act 1998 and advises that relevant cases should be brought before a court of law.

In the course of this project a critical examination of the law on adolescent consent highlighted areas of ambiguity and proposed potential solutions. Alternative models (based on international and European examples) were analysed in order to suggest potential ways forward.

Current problems, potential reforms and possible solutions were debated in a series of workshops designed to engage experts and stakeholders from multiple disciplines.

The workshops brought together people from medical, legal, sociological and philosophical backgrounds. They covered:

  • Ethical and Legal Analysis of the Role of Human Rights in Understanding the Informed Consent of Young People
  • Rights, Welfare and Adolescent Consent Refusals
  • Alternative Models on Adolescent Consent.
  • Ways Forward

The results inform debate, practice and policy.

Project outputs

Articles relating to and resulting from this project include:


You can access the final report and a short Briefing Paper aimed at healthcare practitioners and policy makers here:

E, Cave; Stavrinides, Z (April 2013). Medical Practitioners, Adolescents and Informed Consent Project Final Report. University of Leeds. [PDF: 817KB]

E, Cave (April 2013). Young People who Refuse Life Sustaining Treatment: A Briefing Paper on Current Law and the Need for Reform. [PDF: 479KB]

*We are grateful for the financial support from the Nuffield Foundation. The Nuffield Foundation is an endowed charitable trust that aims to improve social well-being in the widest sense. It funds research and innovation in education and social policy and also works to build capacity in education, science and social science research. The Nuffield Foundation has funded this project, but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Foundation. More information is available at: