Skip to main content

Medical decision-making on behalf of young children: Is it time to move to a significant harm threshold? [ONLINE]

Thursday 26th of May 2022 18:15

Add event to my calendar
Online registration has ended for this event


Online via Zoom (joining link will be circulated via email)


ONLINE ticket holders:
18:15 - 19:15
(Zoom Meeting ‘room’ will be open from 18:00) Please ensure that you have joined before the event is due to start.
This event is expected to end at approximately 19:15 for those with an Online Ticket.

Event Details

This event is taking place in the Sherrard Room AND will be streamed live. This page is for tickets to attend online. To book a ticket to attend in-person CLICK HERE. We will not be able to admit anyone into the Sherrard Room with a virtual ticket.

For those attending in-person please note that bookings are open at full capacity and social distancing will not be possible.

All members of the Inn are welcome to attend this event.


This talk will be led by Dr Cressida Auckland

In recent years, a series of high-profile disputes between the parents of very ill children and their child's medical practitioners have made their way through the courts. In such cases – which include among them that of Charlie Gard, Alfie Evans, Tafida Raqeeb and  Alta Fixsler -- all parties believe that the course of action they favour is what is best for the child, yet those parties cannot reach agreement. The question thus arises, of who should have the ultimate say over a child's medical treatment?

The courts have made it clear that they have the authority to make medical decisions on behalf of children and affirmed the orthodox position that the threshold for judicial intervention is the welfare of the child, often referred to as the “best interests” approach. In this talk, I will evaluate that position, exploring whether the current threshold for judicial intervention is too low. This question – which is the subject of a current Bill before Parliament -- raises deeper questions about the relationship between the state and its citizens, and the legitimate boundaries for state interference in family and private life.
It will be argued that many decisions in which such disputes arise are not solely medical decisions, but value decisions. Where the decision about a child rests on these value-judgements, and where there is space for reasonable disagreement, there are good reasons to think that parents, due to their particular relationship to the child, should have the final say over a child's care, unless there is a sufficient reason for them to be overridden. After all, taking respect for difference seriously means being committed to promoting a plurality of values, even (perhaps especially) where you find them disagreeable. Given this, it will be suggested that the authority of parents to take medical decisions should yield only where the parents’ decision carries a “serious risk of significant harm” to the child, at which point the court then has the authority to intervene.

Dr Cressida Auckland is an Assistant Professor in Medical Law at the London School of Economics, and an Academic Fellow of Middle Temple. Her research focuses in particular on issues relating to capacity, consent and end-of-life decision-making. 

Who can Attend

This event is for members only.

Dietary Requirements

Qualifying Session Details

Click here to see details of the QS Requirements and how to be credited with the QS for this session

Learning Outcomes:

After this session, students should be able to:

  • Understand what the legal position is in respect of medical decision-making for young children, including an overview of the recent case law on this issue. 
  • Identify and evaluate some core arguments for and against raising the threshold for judicial intervention in parental decisions.
  • Recognise some of the wider constitutional questions that this issue raises.
  • Appraise whether the current law is in need of reform, or not. 

Links to the Professional Statement, wider workings of the Bar, administration of justice or a public interest matter

The QS will align with these elements of the professional statement:

  • 1.2 / 1.3

Click here to view the BSB's Professional Statement

QS Feedback

If you have any feedback on a QS you have attended or have any suggestions for future sessions, please contact the education department on

Bookings and Cancellations

Bookings will open at 10:00 AM on Wednesday 06 April 2022.

Members of the Inn can buy tickets online by clicking ‘Add to Cart’.  Please note that you must log in to book (if you have not yet created a log-in please register first).  Alternatively you can buy tickets from the Treasury Office by calling 020 7427 4800.

Unless the event sells out earlier, booking will close at 16:00 the day before the event.  


Where we have a waiting list we will offer your ticket to someone else, so please do cancel your ticket if you are no longer able to attend by emailing

Click here to view our Bookings and Cancellation Policies

Data Protection & Photography

Please be aware that photography, audio and video recording may take place at our events. These may be used for promotional purposes by the Inn, including in printed publications, on our website, and on our social media accounts. If you do not wish to have your photograph taken or to have images of you used, please alert the EducationTeam at the start of the event. We are unable to guarantee that you will not be included in the background of photographs that are being taken. Contact: 020 7427 4800,

All personal data that the Inn stores and processes is held in accordance with the Data Protection Act 2018 and the Inn’s Data Protection Policy. You can ask the Inn to stop using your images at any time, or request to see the personal data that the Inn holds on you. For more information please visit the Data Protection page

Times and details for this event are subject to change. Please check this webpage for the most up to date information.