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Family Law

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17 APR 2007

Reversing the retreat from <i>Gillick</i>? <i>R (Axon) v Secretary of State for Health</i>

Rachel Taylor, Christ Church, Oxford. In the case of R (Axon) v Secretary of State for Health [2006] EWHC 37 (Admin) (Axon) a parent's challenge to the policy of granting confidentiality to children seeking advice on sexual matters failed, and the case defended the policy of child confidentiality strongly. The judgment emphasises the rights and autonomy of mature minors.

This article considers Axon against the background of the case of Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech Area Health Authority [1986] AC 112, where it was held that minors had the capacity to consent to medical treatment provided that they had sufficient maturity and understanding to decide on the matter in question. The concept of the Gillick competent child has been limited through future case law and although Axon did not challenge these limiting factors, it would seem that the case presents a powerful reassertion of the unrestricted Gillick principles.

This article examines the issues presented by Axon including in particular the relationship between the adult's right to parental authority and the child's right to confidentiality. The potential difficulties emerging from the ruling are also considered, and whether or not it can be said that there is a new dawn for children's autonomy. For the full article see Child and Family Law Quarterly, Vol 19, No 1, 2007.

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