The best interests of the child: Dealing better with tensions surrounding dying children

Prof. Ian Freckelton1

1Barrister, 617 Crockett Chambers, 530 Lonsdale St, Melbourne, 3000, VIC, Australia, ,


Three series of cases in England and Australia, involving dying children – Oshin Kiszko, Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans – have generated saturation media attention arising from social and conventional media campaigns generated by the children’s parents. An integral part of the stand-off between clinicians and the children’s parents has been the unparalleled litigation generated by desperate parents seeking various legal remedies, in the first case a cessation of treatment, and resort of complementary therapies and palliative care, and in the latter two cases, utilisation of unorthodox overseas treatments. This paper reviews the breakdown in the therapeutic relationships and focuses upon the psychological dynamics of the disastrous consequences for the providers of care arising from the antagonisms that evolved. It reflects on systems changes that might have the potential to avoid the resort to parens patriae adversarial litigation and media campaigns with distressed parents accusing clinicians of fundamental breaches of their therapeutic responsibilities.


QC in full time-national practice as a barrister from Crockett Chambers, Melbourne; Judge of the Supreme Court of Nauru. Professorial Fellow in Law and Psychiatry, University of Melbourne; Adjunct Professor in Forensic Medicine, Monash University; Adjunct Professor, Johns Hopkins University. Former President of ANZAPPL. Editor-in-Chief of Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, Editor-, Journal of Law and Medicine; member Coronial Council, Vic, & Mental Health Tribunal, Vic. Elected Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences Australia, the Academy of Law, and the Australasian College of Legal Medicine. Author of more than 40 books and more than 600 peer reviewed articles and chapters of books

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