Ethics and law resources

Paediatricians and other clinicians often have to take very difficult decisions while acting in strict accordance with the law and with sensitivity towards the customs and beliefs practiced by their patients and their patients' families.

The resources here are intended to support the training and critical thinking of those taking these decisions. They are focused on the needs of those practicing in the United Kingdom.

This is not a complete or exclusive list of resources. We are keen to get information on further resources - please contact the Ethics and Law Advisory Committee with suggestions on john.pettitt@rcpch.ac.uk.

College Resources

Making decision to limit treatment in life-limiting and life-threatening conditions in children: a framework for practice (DtLT)

This new publication supersedes the College's 2004 publication Witholding or Withdrawing Life Sustaining Treatment in Children: A Framework for Practice. Click to view and download Decisions to Limit Treatment (DtLT).

The Conflict Pathway: a model to address conflict in paediatric practice

Video clip from the 2012 RCPCH Annual Conference Plenary session

External resources

Please note the College cannot accept responsibility for the content of websites run by other bodies.

Clinical Law Updates

Many clinicians find matters of the law applied to their practice rather intimidating. Many helpful codes of practices from learned bodies and regulatory authorities touch on legal matters and provide excellent guidance, but for those wanting a little more depth without wading through medical law textbooks or court transcripts there is little readily accessible alternative to online media and newspaper law reporting.


However RCPCH ELAC is delighted its former Chair, Mr Robert Wheeler paediatric surgeon and now director of the department of clinical law at Southampton has allowed us to link to his clinical law updates. Of particular relevance to child-health are sections on restraining children/Deprivation of liberty, young people refusing blood transfusion and consent.

Joe Brierley
Chair RCPCH Ethics and Law Advisory Committee (ELAC)

Guidance on Clinical Research Involving Infants, Children and Young People: An update for researchers and research ethics committees

This is an update to the Archives of Disease in Childhood (ADC) guidance for the ethical conduct of medical research involving children (2000).

Together for Short Lives - Resources for professionals 

A good resource for those caring for children and young people with life threatening and life limiting conditions.

UK Clinical Ethics Network

For information on ethical issues, contacts for clinical ethics committees in the UK and policy and guidance on ethical issues. Please note the website is not specific to paediatrics.

British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII)

Recording details of legal cases including those relevant to paediatrics and the health and wellbeing of children and young people.

Nuffield Council on Bioethics Report - Children and Clinical Research: ethical issues

Find the final Report of the Nuffield Council's work on the ethical issues of involving children and young people in clinical research.

Deprivation of Liberty - legal update

An update following the recent Supreme Court case regarding deprivation of liberty, as set out in the recent Supreme Court judgment  P v Cheshire West and Chester Counsel and another (2) P and Q v Surrey County Council [2014] UKSC 19 (commonly referred to as ‘Cheshire West’).

Download the update (PDF, 18KB)