Can children aged 12 years or more refuse life-saving treatment without consent or assistance from anyone else?

David Jan McQuoid-Mason


The question of whether a child aged 12 years or more who is sufficiently mature and has the necessary mental capacity may refuse to consent to life-saving treatment without consent from a parent, guardian or caregiver or without the assistance of a parent or guardian is governed by the Constitution, the Children’s Act, the National Health Act and the common law. The best interests of the child are paramount, and should the child unreasonably refuse to consent to life-saving treatment, the Minister of Social Development may give consent for such treatment in terms of the Children’s Act. Otherwise, should a parent, guardian, caregiver or healthcare provider believe that such a refusal is not in the best interests of the child, he or she may approach the High Court for an order to provide such treatment.

Author's affiliations

David Jan McQuoid-Mason, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

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Refusal of consent by children; Life-saving treatment; Best interests of the child

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2014;104(7):466-467. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.8417

Article History

Date submitted: 2014-05-04
Date published: 2014-05-12

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