What power does the Supreme Court have to override parent’s wishes in regard to medical treatment for their children?
The Supreme Court in its Equity Division, Protective List has the power to do many things which contradict the wishes of parents, particularly when it is determined that the parents do not have the interests of the child as their paramount concern.
Most often, the jurisdiction of the Court is exercised when the religious convictions of the parents militate against the proper medical treatment and care required to save the child’s life. We have seen many occasions where the religious beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses have prevented vital medical treatment involving the infusion of donor blood or blood products.
In The Application of Sydney Childrens’ Hospital Network  NSWSC the Hospital brought an application before the Supreme Court for an order seeking approval to conduct a procedure (after birth) with respect to a baby who had been diagnosed in utero with a serious heart condition. The parents had refused to consent to the procedure where it was likely to involve the use of donor blood. Their decision would likely prevent surgeons being able to save the baby’s life.
The critical issue was the interests of the as yet unborn baby. The Court observed that medical treatment by way of surgery was necessary to save the baby’s life and authorised the procedure conditional upon the live birth of the baby, and the use of donor blood or blood products if necessary in the exercise of proper medical judgment.