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Gillick v West Norfolk & Wisbeck Area Health Authority [1986] AC 112 House of Lords


Mrs Gillick was a mother with five daughters under the age of 16. She sought a declaration that it would be unlawful for a doctor to prescribe contraceptives to girls under 16 without the knowledge or consent of the parent.


The declaration was refused.

Lord Fraser:

It seems to me verging on the absurd to suggest that a girl or a boy aged 15 could not effectively consent, for example, to have a medical examination of some trivial injury to his body or even to have a broken arm set. Of course the consent of the parents should normally be asked, but they may not be immediately available. Provided the patient, whether a boy or a girl, is capable of understanding what is proposed, and of expressing his or her own wishes, I see no good reason for holding that he or she lacks the capacity to express them validly and effectively and to authorise the medical man tomake the examination or give the treatment which he advises. After all, a minor under the age of 16 can, within certain limits,enter into a contract. He or she can also sue and be sued, and can give evidence on oath. I am not disposed to hold now, for the first time,that a girl aged less than 16 lacks the power to give valid consent to contraceptive advice or treatment, merely on account of herage.

Fraser guidelines:

The doctor will, in my opinion, be justified in proceeding without the parents' consent or even knowledge provided he is satisfied on the following matters:

1.         that the girl (although under 16 years of age) will understand his advice;

2.         that he cannot persuade her to inform her parents or to allow him to inform the parents that she isseeking contraceptive advice;

3.         that she is very likely to begin or to continue having sexual intercourse with or without contraceptivetreatment;

4.         that unless she receives contraceptive advice or treatment her physical or mental health or both arelikely to suffer;

5.         that her best interests require him to give the contraceptive advice, treatment or both without the parental consent.

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