The legal status that, by virtue of the Children Act 1989, requires adults to act in the interests of a child’s welfare. A birth mother will always have parental responsibility unless it is removed by an adoption order. Originally, parental responsibility was automatically shared only when the couple was married; in the case of unmarried couples, the male partner had to apply for a parental responsibility order. However, following a change in the law and since 1 December 2003, unmarried men who are named in the birth registration automatically acquire parental responsibility. In medical ethics, a person with parental responsibility can consent to, or refuse, treatment on behalf of a child who is too young to have capacity to make his or her own decisions about health care. However, the entitlement to act on behalf of a child is limited to the extent to which a person with parental responsibility is acting in the child’s best interests. See also Gillick competence.
Subjects: Law — Medicine and Health.