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

Jonathan Brown, Sarah Christie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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 call 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)682–707
Number of pages26
JournalOxford Journal of Legal Studies
Issue number4
Early online date3 Sep 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • Parens patriae
  • infants
  • medical treatment
  • withdrawal
  • best interests
  • Scots

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