Journal of Bioethical Inquiry

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 323–328 | Cite as

Stretching the Boundaries of Parental Responsibility and New Legal Guidelines for Determination of Brain Death

  • Bernadette RichardsEmail author
  • Thaddeus Mason Pope
Recent Developments

Stretching the Boundaries of Parental Responsibility: Re Carla (Medical procedure) [2016] FamCA 7

A recent decision of the Family Court of Australia stretches the boundaries of parental authority and, arguably, fails to protect the interests of the child. At the outset of this discussion it is important to recognize the love and care that the parents of Carla (the child at the centre of this decision) have for her and their strong view that the treatment they are seeking is in her best interests. This overview in no way challenges that motive, rather it raises general questions regarding the broad legal principal that emerges from the decision.

Five-year-old Carla was born genetically male but with a sexual development disorder (17 beta hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 3 deficiency) which meant that she was “under virilised for a genetic male” ([1]). Carla did not have any female reproductive organs but was born with the external appearance of a female and with male gonads not contained...


Parental responsibility Best interests of the child Invasive treatment Gender Brain death End-of-life Uniform Determination of Death Act American Academy of Neurology 


  1. In Re Guardianship of Hailu, No. 68531 (Nevada Nov 3, 2015) (oral argument recording). Accessed July 06, 2017.
  2. Nakagawa, T.A, S. Ashwal, M. Mathur, M. Mysore, and Society of Critical Care Medicine. 2011. Guidelines for the determination of brain death in infants and children: An update of the 1987 task force recommendations. Pediatrics 128(3): e720–e740.Google Scholar
  3. Pope, T.M., and M.E. Okninski. 2016. Legal standards for brain death and undue influence in euthanasia laws. Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 13(2): 173–178.Google Scholar
  4. Wijdicks, E.F.M., P.N. Varelas, G.S. Gronseth, and D.M. Greer. 2010. Evidence-based guideline update: Determining brain death in adults: Report of the quality standards subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology. Neurology 74(23): 1911–1918.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Journal of Bioethical Inquiry Pty Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Law SchoolUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.Mitchell Hamline School of LawSaint PaulUSA

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