A High Court judge has approved the emergency treatment of a seventeen year old girl against her wishes.
In An NHS Foundation Hospital v P, the girl, who had a history of self-harm, took an overdose of paracetemol and refused treatment for several hours, saying she would not have done so in the first place if she intended to agree to an ‘antidote’.
Treatment for paracetemol overdose must happen within approximately eight hours, and once that point was reached, “the situation had reached a crisis”.
Solicitors representing the hospital trust contacted Mr Justice Baker, who was the out of hours judge at the time, for a declaration that giving the medical practitioners responsibility for P’s treatment was lawful and in her best interest.
As treatment against a patient’s wishes can involve sedation and restraint, the trust also sought an order that any steps taken “any steps taken that would amount to a deprivation of liberty would also be lawful”.
Citing Re W (a minor) (medical treatment: court jurisdiction)  and Re P (Medical Treatment: Best Interests) , the judge noted that while adults can refuse treatment if they are deemed to have the capacity to decide, those under 18 can have their wishes overridden.
With that in mind, he approved treatment for the girl, ruling that it best served P’s welfare.
The judge concluded:
“In reaching this decision, I repeat that I have taken account of P’s wishes and feelings. The urgency of the situation requires me to make the order without speaking directly to P herself … I will order that it shall expire within 28 days, unless an application is made to extend it before that time has elapsed.”