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Disability Rights Commissioner calls for law change

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Disability Rights Commissioner Paul Gibson is gravely concerned about the lack of legal safeguards to protect disabled children from undergoing unnecessary medical procedures.

"I don’t feel that the current law sufficiently protects the bodily integrity of disabled people under the age of 18," Mr Gibson said.

There is no legal requirement for a judge to consider the appropriateness of a proposed treatment or for an independent person to advocate for the interests and rights of the disabled child. Although individual clinicians may choose to involve clinical ethics advisory bodies, this is not a legal requirement and if a parent can find a clinician willing to go ahead with treatment then it can proceed.

Under the Care of Children Act 2004 parents or guardians of a disabled child can consent to sterilisation and treatment such as growth attenuation on behalf of the child. The Commission views this practice is inconsistent with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

"The Convention was developed with families of the most significantly disabled children and collectively they stated that non therapeutic medical intervention should be avoided, and with greater support less invasive alternatives were ultimately a better route to take," Mr Gibson said.

"I’d like to see better support provided to parents with disabled children to help their children to live meaningful lives and to have hope for the future without compromising their rights to grow up/mature naturally.

"I would like to see the Care of Children Act amended to ensure that invasive and clinically unnecessary treatment cannot be performed in this country without specific judicial authorisation," Mr Gibson said.

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