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Reflecting on 'Hannah's Choice': Using the Ethics of Care to Justify Child Participation in End of Life Decision-Making

Journal title
Medical law review
Publication year
Moreton, K. L.

It has been ten years since the case of Hannah Jones-the 12-year-old girl who was permitted to refuse a potentially life-saving heart transplant. In the past decade, there has been some progress within law and policy in respect of children's participatory rights (UNCRC-Article 12), and a greater understanding of family-centred decision-making. However, the courts still largely maintain their traditional reluctance to find children Gillick competent to refuse medical treatment. In this article, I revisit Hannah's case through the narrative account provided by Hannah and her mother, to ascertain what lessons can be learnt. I use an Ethics of Care framework specially developed for children in mid-childhood, such as Hannah, to argue for more a creative and holistic approach to child decision-making in healthcare. I conclude that using traditional paradigms is untenable in the context of palliative care and at the end of life, and that the law should be able to accommodate greater, and even determinative, participation of children who are facing their own deaths.

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