Giving Children a Say without Giving Them a Choice: Obtaining Affirmation of a child’s Non-dissent to Participation in Nonbeneficial Research

Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 29 (1):80-97 (2020)
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:To what extent, if any, should minors have a say about whether they participate in research that offers them no prospect of direct benefit? This article addresses this question as it pertains to minors who cannot understand enough about what their participation would involve to make an autonomous choice, but can comprehend enough to have and express opinions about participating. The first aim is to defend David Wendler and Seema Shah’s claim that minors who meet this description should not be offered a choice about whether they participate. The second aim is to show, contra Wendler and Shah, that the principle of nonmaleficence requires more with respect to giving these minors a say than merely respecting their dissent. Additionally, it requires that investigators obtain affirmation of their non-dissent. This addresses intuitive concerns about denying children a choice, while steering clear of the problems that arise with allowing them one.



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Holly Kantin
University of Alabama

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