ACHLR 10th Annual Public Oration

The Australian Centre for Health Law Research (ACHLR) hosted their 10th Annual Public Oration on 1 December 2022 with Professor Emma Cave presenting.


Professor Cave was introduced by Professor Tina Cockburn. You can listen to our podcast version of the presentation below:


The oration considered how the sufficiency of young adults’ autonomy is judged in light of biological, social and psychological evidence that adolescence can continue into the mid 20s. Adolescence can impact on developmental immaturity which can in turn affect risk taking, impulsivity, and independence in decision making. Some areas of law are starting to accommodate the impacts of adolescence into adulthood.

Professor Cave looked at how they do so and whether the law relating to medical treatment refusals in England and Wales might also adapt. She proposed that the right to full decision-making about medical treatment refusals at 18 based on the adult status of the individual should accommodate greater sensitivity to individual developmental attributes and set out some of the steps necessary to achieve this.

About the presenter

Emma Cave is a Professor of Healthcare Law at Durham Law School, England where she writes principally on matters relating to informed consent, capacity and the treatment of children. Her 2004 monograph, The Mother of All Crimes was reissued in 2018 and the seventh edition of her co-authored book (with Professor Margaret Brazier and Professor Rob Heywood), Medicine, Patients and the Law will be published in 2023.In addition to academic work, she has undertaken several public service roles. She was recently appointed as a core member of the Expert Panel to the Health and Social Care Committee, a House of Commons Select Committee that scrutinises work by the Department of Health and Social Care and holds the government to account on commitments made. She chairs a General Medical Council Advisory Forum on the revision of their core guidance, Good Medical Practice. And she is member of the Assurance Group to The Cass Review, an independent review of gender identity services for children and young people. She previously served as a member of the assisted reproduction regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority 2018-2021 where she was Deputy Chair of the Statutory Approvals Committee and co-convened the Medical Ethics Expert Group of the Infected Blood Inquiry from 2019-2022.