James Wilson
University College London
In this chapter we argue that the four principles of medical ethics -- beneficence, non-maleficence, respect for autonomy and justice (Beauchamp & Childress, 2001; Gillon, 1985), a new Family Interest Principle (introduced below) and a consideration of ‘capacity’ provide a reasoned practice guide for work with mothers experiencing health problems, focussing here on mental health when a parent is a patient. Our concern is the relationship of the clinician with a parent and through the parent their child. Ethics of service provision or services planning (e.g. Culyer, 2001; McLachlan, 2005; see also Newbigging and Paul, chapter xxx), or the provision of other services (e.g. education, child protection) although intensely relevant to this area are not addressed in this chapter nor will we deal with the complex aspects of medical ethics relating to the treatment of children (Baines, 2008). We use the term ‘parent’ to refer to any adult person who fulfils a substantive parental role with a child. Defining what counts as a family will in certain circumstances be contentious. There are diverse patterns of family arrangements that may be influenced by cultural, political economic and temporal factors. For the purposes of our discussion, we define a family in terms of its role in childrearing, as a group of at least one adult and at least one child, living together in long term relationships on an ongoing basis with vested interest in the well being of each of the family members.
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