Expert advice

Legal advice: How to manage conflicting requests from a patient's parents

The mother of one of my patients on the children’s ward has telephoned a few times asking about her five-year-old daughter. The father, with whom the child lives, has asked us not to tell the mother anything. What should we do?

Question: The mother of one of my patients on the children’s ward has telephoned a few times asking about her five-year-old daughter. The father, with whom the child lives, has asked us not to tell the mother anything. What should we do?

One parent cannot stop another parent from receiving information about their child, providing they retain parental responsibility.

Parental responsibility means they have rights and obligations to care for and protect. Parents have the right to give or refuse consent for medical treatment and to have access to medical information about the child.

Mothers acquire parental responsibility automatically, but, if the father’s name is registered on the birth certificate of the child – since April 15 2002 in Northern Ireland, December 1 2003 in England and Wales, and May 4 2006 in Scotland – he will also have parental responsibility.

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