Re P (Medical Treatment: Best Interests) – Case Summary

Re P (Medical Treatment: Best Interests)

Bro Morgannwg NHS Trust v P and Others

High Court

Citations: [2003] EWHC 2327 (Fam).


‘John’ was a sixteen year old patient at a Bro Morgannwg NHS Trust hospital. He suffered from a hypermobility syndrome which could lead to serious bleeding. Doctors at the hospital explained that he might need a blood transfusion if this happened. However, John refused consent, telling them that he was a Jehovah’s Witness and his religion did not permit blood transfusion. His parents agreed with his decision.

John later suffered a ruptured aorta. This increased his risk of death if his condition worsened and no blood was administered. The hospital sought a declaration from the court that it would be lawful to administer blood to John against his wishes and those of his parents if his condition became ‘life-threatening’.

  1. Should the court make an order permitting the administration of blood if John’s condition became life-threatening?

The Court agreed to make the order. However, it added the caveat that blood should only be administered if ‘no other form of treatment is available’.

This Case is Authority For…

The court should be careful when refusing to adhere to the wishes of an older child. The older the child is, the more respect their wishes should be given. Johnson J noted in particular that an older child’s views are to be given particular weight if the treatment would only delay an inevitable death for a short period. However, the court’s primary duty and concern is to ensure that the child survives until the age of majority.


This case shows that the courts are reluctant to allow even mature and capable older children to refuse life-saving treatment. However, the form of the order was designed to respect John’s wishes as far as possible by making the administration of blood a matter of absolute last resort.