What is medical mediation?

Medical Mediation is a way of resolving conflict in a way which is much less adversarial than going to court. Mediation takes place in an environment which is safe and where discussions are facilitated by a trained, independent mediator.


What causes medical conflicts?

Sometimes health professionals and families cannot agree about what are the best interests of a child with a serious or life-limiting illness. For example, some parents as well as some members of a medical team, may have deeply held religious or ethical beliefs which may underpin the way they think and feel about what is best for that child. Or members of different clinical teams may disagree about the best course of treatment in a particular case. Or a child or young person may have different views from their family about their medical treatment.

If these disagreements cannot be resolved, health professionals or families may ask the courts to decide. Sometimes this is the best course of action to take.

In other cases, asking a judge to decide a case which is based on complex differences of view, leads to a position in which there are seen to be “winners” and “losers” in a situation which isn’t really about “right” or “wrong”. The impact of this kind of conflict can last long after the specific clinical issues have been resolved.


How does it work?

Medical mediation, of whatever kind, is always voluntary and confidential.

It is a way of resolving conflict which is non–adversarial. A mediation cannot go ahead unless all those involved agree to it. It can be requested by patients, parents or staff.

Before the mediation we will contact you to agree a convenient time to meet, discuss what mediation involves and talk to you about the disagreement. We will also contact the other people involved and speak to them if they agree. Nothing you say is discussed with anyone else unless you give us permission to do so. There are some exceptions to this. See Confidentiality

Once everyone is familiar with the process there will be a joint meeting involving all those involved in the disagreement. As mediators, our responsibility is to make sure everyone has a chance to tell their side of the story. We may also have a number of private meetings with all those involved. These meetings provide an opportunity to say things to the mediators in confidence that they may not be willing to share with the other parties. Mediation is a flexible process so the number and length of meetings will vary.


What happens if we can’t agree?

If no agreement is reached through medical mediation you are free to try other ways of resolving the disagreement.



Everything that is said during a mediation is confidential. Only the terms of agreement – if agreement is reached – will be put in a patient’s notes. Whatever you say to the mediator during a private session will not be passed on to anyone else unless you give your express permission. The whole mediation is “without prejudice”. This is a legal terms which means that nothing said during the mediation can be used if the disagreement later goes to court.

The only circumstances when the mediator will pass on what is said in mediation is where the mediator believes that there is a significant risk of harm to a person or if either side is breaking the law, or where ordered to do so by a court. If this is the case then the mediator is under a duty to inform the appropriate authorities.


When can Medical Mediation help?

Mediation can help in many different situations:

  • where there is conflict between health professionals in different medical departments or between colleagues in the same department
  • where there is a disagreement between health professionals and parents and it is starting to escalate.
  • where the management of a particular disagreement is taking up a large amount of staff time.
  • where urgent treatment decisions are needed. Mediation would be part of the multidisciplinary approach required in such cases to attempt to resolve any dispute.
  • where a health professional, parent or patient aged 16 or over may wish to seek independent support in making a decision about end of life or other medical treatment.


What do people say about medical conflict?

Read testimonials from people dealing with medical conflict on our “What people say about medical conflict” page.