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Pater knows best: withdrawal of medical treatment from infants in Scotland.

Brown, Jonathan; Christie, Sarah


Jonathan Brown


The cases of Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans placed the withdrawal of treatment from terminally ill infants at the forefront of medical law and ethics. In the medico-legal context, Scottish court procedures materially differ from those in England. This article considers these differences in light of the possibility that a similar case might soon be called before the Scottish courts. The Court of Session would then be required to consider whether to utilise its parens patriae jurisdiction to consent to the withdrawal of treatment as if it were the parent of the infant. The operation of this jurisdiction is such that the outcome of any Scottish case cannot be said to be certain, as the Scottish courts are bound to pay more heed to parental autonomy than their English counterparts do.


BROWN, J. and CHRISTIE, S. 2020. Pater knows best: withdrawal of medical treatment from infants in Scotland. Oxford journal of legal studies [online], 40(4), pages 682-707. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 11, 2020
Online Publication Date Sep 3, 2020
Publication Date Dec 31, 2020
Deposit Date May 27, 2020
Publicly Available Date Aug 17, 2021
Journal Oxford journal of legal studies
Print ISSN 0143-6503
Electronic ISSN 1464-3820
Publisher Oxford University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 40
Issue 4
Pages 682-707
Keywords Parens patriae; Infants; Medical treatment; Withdrawal; Best interests; Scots law
Public URL


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