The case of Jaymee Bowen (child B) illustrated the conflict that may arise over treatment decisions in the National Health Service (NHS). This article reviews four further cases involving disagreement between patients and families on the one hand, and health authorities on the other, and a fifth case in which a health authority questioned the treatment decision of a medical specialist. The cases illustrate the rise of consumerism in health care and the challenge for health authorities in weighing the claims of individual patients against the needs of communities. They also demonstrate the increasing role of lawyers and the courts in resolving disputes over treatment decisions. Clinicians were closely involved in all cases, both in recommending treatment options and in serving as independent advisers when disputes arose. The findings presented here indicate that there is a need to strengthen the process of decision-making in cases of this kind and to make greater use of evidence in informing decisions. In future, decision-making needs to be characterized by openness, reason giving, an appeals procedure and regulation of the process to ensure that these conditions are met. The funders of health care also need to consider each individual in his or her own right while also using their resources for the benefit of the population as a whole.