Toward a Coherent Account of Pediatric Decision Making

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 35 (5):526-552 (2010)
Abstract
Within and among societies, there are competing understandings of the status of children, including debates over whether they can bear rights and, if so, which rights they bear and against whom, and their capacity to make decisions and be held responsible and accountable for actions. There also are different understandings of what constitutes a family; what authority parents have over and regarding their children; and what should happen to children who are without parents because of death, desertion, or imprisonment. These and other related debates reflect deep differences in worldviews, in how one understands the legitimate role of the state, in how one comes to know the proper way to raise children, and so on. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child purports to reflect international convergence on the rights of children, on how decisions concerning children should be made, and on how children ought to be treated by the state and by their parents. This paper examines whether the Convention's framework for decision making concerning children is an appropriate framework for pediatric bioethics. Questions about how to make health care decisions for children ultimately are questions of who is in authority to make and judge such decisions. Establishing who is in authority, determining whether there are any limits to that authority and, if so, defining those limits should be the focus of efforts to develop and implement a pediatric decision-making framework
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