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Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2009 September; 91(6): 539.
PMCID: PMC2966232

Dual Parental Consent

The President of the Family Division held that operation shall only be carried out with the approval of both parents. This places a binding legal obligation on the surgeon to seek dual parental consent without any latitude in the interpretation of this judgement. Additionally, it is assumed that doctors are familiar with the legal environment in which they have to practice. This is no different from the ‘man on the Clapham omnibus’ who is deemed to be familiar with the law of the land.

Language difficulties, absence of one parent, etc. do not exonerate the surgeon from failure to obtain dual consent.

Second, the presence of two adults with a child at a consultation may not always imply that the former are the parents of the latter. Also, the question whether they are the genetic parents needs consideration. It is assumed that the judge referred to genetic parents in his judgement. The authors surprisingly view that a breach in professional trust may occur from inquiring about parenthood at a consultation involving a child. On the contrary, it is vital that this be established at the outset. On more than one occasion in the past, the medical profession has been exhorted to ‘think the unthinkable’.

Pursuing the need for dual consent requires the surgeon to ensure that:

  1. Both adults are the legal parents of the child.
  2. The adults understand the matter being discussed and provide consent that is informed and devoid of coercion or misunderstanding.
  3. Translation that may be required is independent.
  4. The child's view, where practical, is considered.

In the absence of dual consent the surgeon should not proceed with the operation, for which there is no medical reason or urgency.

Articles from Annals of The Royal College of Surgeons of England are provided here courtesy of The Royal College of Surgeons of England