The Narrative Coherence Standard and Child Patients' Capacity to Consent

American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience 11 (1):40-42 (2020)
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Aryeh Goldberg compellingly argues for a Narrative Coherence Standard (NCS) to bolster existing methods of assessing patients' mental capacity. But his account fails to distinguish between the cognitive abilities of children and adults; consequently, worries may be raised about the scope of the NCS, in particular when we consider child patients. In this article, I argue the NCS cannot plausibly apply to children. Since children's self-conception does not arrive fully formed — but rather is a product of both incomplete cognitive development and socializing factors — I claim children may not possess a sufficiently intimate knowledge of self, and therefore a sufficiently coherent sense of self, as Goldberg demands. Therefore, we should either revise the NCS to accommodate children, adopt an incremental view of consent, or revert to the relevant form of the MacArthur competence criteria to establish children’s capacity to consent.



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