This article questions the assumption of parental rights that frames the current legal paradigm for medical decisionmaking for children in the United States. Focusing on cases in which parents exercised their power to size, shape, and sculpt children's bodies through non-therapeutic surgical and medical interventions, I argue that the current paradigm distorts the parent-child relationship and objectifies children by allowing parents to subordinate their children's interests to their own. Such assertions of power violate the moral principle, deeply embedded in American legal tradition, that no person, even a parent, may subordinate the life, liberty, or body of another for her own purposes. I propose an alternative. Pushing the analogy of parent as trustee developed in family law and moral philosophy, I use principles of trust law to define and apply a trust-based construct of the parent-child relationship that limits parental power over children's bodies. Application of the trustee-based construct separates medical decisions that belong to parents, from decisions that belong to children and those that should be made by a neutral third party.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Translate to english
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 61,089
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

The Limits of Parental Authority?Barry Lyons - 2010 - American Journal of Bioethics 10 (1):50-52.
Putting Law in the Room.Alicia Ouellette - 2010 - American Journal of Bioethics 10 (1):48-50.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles


Added to PP index

Total views
26 ( #412,633 of 2,440,191 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #432,124 of 2,440,191 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes