Why the Little Mermaid stopped singing: how oppressive social forces silence children's voices, and rob them of the opportunity to develop and exercise autonomy in the health care context

The “new sociology of childhood” replaces the historical notion of children as inherently vulnerable, helpless and in need of protection, with a perception of children as capable of competent, autonomous, social participation. Although this new sociological perception underlies current children's rights literature, Canadian common law, and important Canadian pediatric health care guidelines, children's autonomy in health care contexts remains easily denied or subverted in favour of adult conceptions of their best interests. In order to try to understand why, I use a feminist, relational approach to autonomy to analyze how oppressive social forces might hinder children from developing and exercising their autonomy in health care, and uncover a tendency to silence the voice of the child within bioethical discourse. These results suggest that greater levels of pediatric autonomy could be fostered by overcoming oppressive social forces and by fostering the skills necessary for the development and exercise of autonomy
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