This series highlights common medicolegal issues in general practice. Written by a team from medical defence organisation Avant, the scenarios are based on a range of previous cases with details changed for privacy and some issues summarised for discussion. In this scenario, a 15-year-old girl presents without her parents to ask for an antidepressant prescription, raising the question of children’s capacity to consent to treatment.
For many GPs, a great reward of practice is the opportunity to build long-term relationships with patients and their families. However, this can also present a particular challenge, as this scenario illustrates. As children mature and become capable of making decisions, so the law recognises that they develop legal capacity to make healthcare decisions independently of their parents. However, this is not necessarily a clear, or linear, progression. Although a child may be competent to make some medical decisions, this does not mean they have the capacity to make all medical decisions independently. Further, growing independence can put children in conflict with their parents, and navigating this complex terrain can be a challenge for doctors.