The general rule for consenting to medical treatment is that, in order to give consent, the person must be 16 years or older. The ability to give consent rests primarily with the child’s parent, guardian, caretaker or next of kin if the person is under 16 years of age.

Despite this general rule, medical practitioners are required to consider what the child wants, even if they are under the age of 16. This is a right provided under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

If a child is deemed to have the necessary maturity and understanding of the particular medical procedure, a practitioner may consider their consent rather than their parents even if they are under 16 years of age.

It is accepted that some children are able to make informed decisions regarding particular procedures, and that must be considered. Whether the child has the necessary capacity will depend on the nature and consequences associated with the procedure, and whether they understand these consequences.

A child may be able to consent to some medical treatments but not to others. For example, a child may have the necessary capacity to consent to receiving stitches for an injured hand, but not for serious procedures like surgery.

Even if the child does not personally consent, medical professionals are required to explain the procedure to them in a way that they understand.

In New Zealand, a female of any age is able to consent to, or refuse, medical treatment for the termination of a pregnancy.

If a parent or guardian refuses the medical treatment of a child, or if there is no one to give consent, the Courts may provide consent. Even if there is someone to give consent, the Courts may intervene where the medical practitioner believes non-consent is against the child’s best interests.

If there is confusion around who has capacity to consent to medical procedures, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.


Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-price Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins we have an experienced team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.

 Alan Knowsley and Hunter Flanagan-Connors