Please note:
Gillick Competence is not to be confused with the Fraser Guidelines which is only concerned with contraception.

Gillick Competence is:

a term originating in England and is used in medical law to decide whether a child (under 16 years of age) is able to consent to his or her own medical treatment, without the need for parental permission or knowledge.

The standard is based on the 1985 decision of the House of Lords in Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech Area Health Authority. (Source: Wikipedia)

I am wondering what limitations there are to the ability for a child to override a parent/guardian's decision concerning their health and wellbeing.

Wikipedia at the same source, points out that (emphasis mine)

except in situations that are regulated otherwise by law, the legal right to make a decision on any particular matter concerning the child shifts from the parent to the child when the child reaches sufficient maturity to be capable of making up his or her own mind on the matter requiring decision.

What situations are there that are "regulated otherwise by law"?

2 Answers 2


It is difficult to think of many areas where a child would have Gillick competence but the legal right would rest with the parent in law.

One example that comes to mind is enlisting in the Armed Forces when under the age of 18. Section 5 of the Armed Forces (Enlistment) Regulations 2009 requires parental permission to be given for any child enlisting in the Armed Forces who is under 18.

5.—(1) Where a person under the age of 18 (“the young person”) offers to enlist in the regular forces and an appropriate person can be identified in relation to him, he shall not be enlisted unless written consent to the enlistment has been given—

(a) where he is living with one or more appropriate persons, by each such person;

(b) where he is not living with any appropriate person, by such a person.

In such circumstances, the child arguably has Gillick competence (they must be at least 16 years of age to offer to enlist), but in law the right to decide whether the child can join the Armed Forces or not rests with the parent.


An example is given in the Wikipedia article

For example, parental consent is required for the treatment of children with asthma using standby salbutamol inhalers in schools. These restrictions have yet to be tested in court.

  • I don't hold any credence to this claim made in the Wikipedia article because in the paper cited it states that "Of 98 schools submitting valid responses to the question, 99% (n = 97) permitted pupils to carry inhalers on their person while at school; the remaining school stored pupils’ inhalers in a central location within the school. A total of 22% of included schools (n = 22) required parental permission before pupils were permitted to carry inhalers.... Jan 10, 2020 at 14:41
  • ... Conclusions. Most secondary schools in North East England permit pupils to carry inhalers on their person. The requirement in a minority of schools for parental permission to be given possibly contravenes the standard ethical practices in clinical medicine for children of this age." This to me points out that it is a school rule rather than legislation and contravenes the child's rights under Gillick Competence law. Unless the legislation can be found. Jan 10, 2020 at 14:41
  • @ChrisRogers read the last paragraph on page 4 referring specifically to legislation that requires parental permission
    – Dale M
    Jan 10, 2020 at 22:39
  • However, it does appear the article is wrong because the legislation (legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2012/1916/schedule/17/part/3/2017-10-01) doesn’t mention parental permission
    – Dale M
    Jan 10, 2020 at 22:49
  • The part about the law you mentioned is "whether the school has an emergency ‘standby’ salbutamol inhaler for use in asthma emergencies, as permitted since October 2014 under recent amendments to The Human Medicines Regulations 2012." Not whether parental consent is required. "In England and Wales, under section 8 of the Family Law Reform Act 1969 (Government of the United Kingdom, 1969), those aged 16 years are presumed to be capable of consenting to their own medical treatment and any ancillary procedures involved in that treatment." Plus, Gillick Competence is case law from 1985. Jan 11, 2020 at 8:34

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