Junior health minister Lord Hunt said yesterday the government would consider amending the Mental Health Bill so that 16- and 17-year-olds can refuse treatment.
He made the promise after hearing concerns during a Lords debate that the bill does not offer people in that age group the same protections as others when subjected to compulsory treatment.
Under the Family Law Reform Act 1969, young people deemed competent can consent to treatment. But, if they refuse, they can be overruled by their parents.
Baroness Walmsley described the situation as “a nonsense” amounting to a “legal contradiction”.
She added that many practitioners were not clear on the issue and there was a lot of evidence that they were accepting the views of parents over those of the young people.
“Young people themselves and practitioners in the field need to be clear about their rights in this matter,” she said. “The government may feel that they can rely on case law for this, but that is clearly not working out there in the hospitals.”
Lord Howe added that, because of the confusion over the law, many parents were put in “an absolutely invidious position for which the child is likely to blame them for the rest of his or her life”.
“In view of what I have heard tonight I will see whether the government should table an amendment in this area,” Hunt said.
Contact the author: Sally Gillen