Patient competence, defined as the ability to reason, appreciate, understand, and express a choice is rarely discussed in patients with obsessive compulsive disorder, and coercive measures are seldom used. Nevertheless, a psychiatrist of psychologist may doubt whether OCD patients who refuse treatment understand their disease and the consequences of not being treated, which could result in tension between respecting the patient’s autonomy and beneficence. The purpose of this article is to develop a notion of competence that is grounded in clinical (...) practice and corresponds with the experiences of patients with obsessions and/or compulsions. We present a naturalistic case study giving both the patient’s and the therapist’s perspective based on in-depth interviews and a narrative analysis. The case study shows that competence is not merely an assessment by a therapist, but also a co-constructed reality shaped by the experiences and stories of patient and therapist. The patient, a medical student, initially told her story in a restitution narrative, focusing on cognitive rationality. Reconstructing the history of her disease, her story changed into a quest narrative where there was room for emotions, values and moral learning. This fitted well with the therapist’s approach, who used motivational interventions with a view to appealing to the patient’s responsibility to deal with her condition. We conclude that in practice both the patient and therapist used a quest narrative, approaching competence as the potential for practical reasoning to incorporate values and emotions. (shrink)
Although law is established on a strong presumption that persons younger than a certain age are not competent to consent, statutory age limits for asking children’s consent to clinical research differ widely internationally. From a clinical perspective, competence is assumed to involve many factors including the developmental stage, the influence of parents and peers, and life experience. We examined potential determining factors for children’s competence to consent to clinical research and to what extent they explain the variation in competence judgments.
BackgroundThe Netherlands is one of the few countries where euthanasia is legal under strict conditions. This study investigates whether Dutch newspaper articles use the term ‘euthanasia’ according to the legal definition and determines what arguments for and against euthanasia they contain.MethodsWe did an electronic search of seven Dutch national newspapers between January 2009 and May 2010 and conducted a content analysis.ResultsOf the 284 articles containing the term ‘euthanasia’, 24% referred to practices outside the scope of the law, mostly relating to (...) the forgoing of life-prolonging treatments and assistance in suicide by others than physicians. Of the articles with euthanasia as the main topic, 36% described euthanasia in the context of a terminally ill patient, 24% for older persons, 16% for persons with dementia, and 9% for persons with a psychiatric disorder. The most frequent arguments for euthanasia included the importance of self-determination and the fact that euthanasia contributes to a good death. The most frequent arguments opposing euthanasia were that suffering should instead be alleviated by better care, that providing euthanasia can be disturbing, and that society should protect the vulnerable.ConclusionsOf the newspaper articles, 24% uses the term ‘euthanasia’ for practices that are outside the scope of the euthanasia law. Typically, the more unusual cases are discussed. This might lead to misunderstandings between citizens and physicians. Despite the Dutch legalisation of euthanasia, the debate about its acceptability and boundaries is ongoing and both sides of the debate are clearly represented. (shrink)
BackgroundIn research ethics, the most basic question would always be, “which is an ethical issue, which is not?” Interestingly, depending on which ethics guideline we consult, we may have various answers to this question. Though we already have several international ethics guidelines for biomedical research involving human participants, ironically, we do not have a harmonized document which tells us what these various guidelines say and shows us the areas of consensus. In this manuscript, we attempted to do just that.MethodsWe extracted (...) the imperatives from five internationally-known ethics guidelines and took note where the imperatives came from. In doing so, we gathered data on how many guidelines support a specific imperative.ResultsWe found that there is no consensus on the majority of the imperatives and that in only 8.2 % of the imperatives were there at least moderate consensus. Of the 12 clusters, Informed Consent has the highest level of consensus and Research Collaboration and Regulatory Sanctions have the least.ConclusionThere was a lack of consensus in the majority of imperatives from the five internationally-known ethics guidelines. This may be partly explained by the differences among the guidelines in terms of their levels of specification as well as conceptual/ideological differences. (shrink)
Despite the reported limited success of conventional treatments and growing evidence of the effectiveness of adult bariatric surgery, weight loss operations for (morbidly) obese children and adolescents are still considered to be controversial by health care professionals and lay people alike. This paper describes an explorative, qualitative study involving obesity specialists, morbidly obese adolescents, and parents and identifies attitudes and normative beliefs regarding pediatric bariatric surgery. Views on the etiology of obesity—whether it should be considered primarily a medical condition or (...) more a psychosocial problem—seem to affect the specialists’ normative opinions concerning the acceptability of bariatric procedures as a treatment option, the parents’ feelings regarding both being able to influence their child’s health and their child being able to control their own condition, and the adolescents’ sense of competence and motivation for treatment. Moreover, parents and adolescents who saw obesity as something that they could influence themselves were more in favor of non-surgical treatment and vice versa. Conflicting attitudes and normative views—e.g., with regard to concepts of disease, personal influence on health, motivation, and the possibility of a careful informed consent procedure—play an important role in the acceptability of bariatric surgery for childhood obesity. (shrink)
BackgroundFor many decades, the debate on children’s competence to give informed consent in medical settings concentrated on ethical and legal aspects, with little empirical underpinnings. Recently, data from empirical research became available to advance the discussion. It was shown that children’s competence to consent to clinical research could be accurately assessed by the modified MacArthur Competence Assessment Tool for Clinical Research. Age limits for children to be deemed competent to decide on research participation have been studied: generally children of 11.2 (...) years and above were decision-making competent, while children of 9.6 years and younger were not. Age was pointed out to be the key determining factor in children’s competence. In this article we reflect on policy implications of these findings, considering legal, ethical, developmental and clinical perspectives.DiscussionAlthough assessment of children’s competence has a normative character, ethics, law and clinical practice can benefit from research data. The findings may help to do justice to the capacities children possess and challenges they may face when deciding about treatment and research options. We discuss advantages and drawbacks of standardized competence assessment in children on a case-by-case basis compared to application of a fixed age limit, and conclude that a selective implementation of case-by-case competence assessment in specific populations is preferable. We recommend the implementation of age limits based on empirical evidence. Furthermore, we elaborate on a suitable model for informed consent involving children and parents that would do justice to developmental aspects of children and the specific characteristics of the parent-child dyad.SummaryPrevious research outcomes showed that children’s medical decision-making capacities could be operationalized into a standardized assessment instrument. Recommendations for policies include a dual consent procedure, including both child as well as parents, for children from the age of 12 until they reach majority. For children between 10 and 12 years of age, and in case of children older than 12 years in special research populations of mentally compromised patients, we suggest a case-by-case assessment of children’s competence to consent. Since such a dual consent procedure is fundamentally different from a procedure of parental permission and child assent, and would imply a considerable shift regarding some current legislations, practical implications are elaborated. (shrink)
BackgroundResearch ethics committees (RECs) are tasked to assess the risks and the benefits of a trial. Currently, two procedure-level approaches are predominant, the Net Risk Test and the Component Analysis.DiscussionBy looking at decision studies, we see that both procedure-level approaches conflate the various risk-benefit tasks, i.e., risk-benefit assessment, risk-benefit evaluation, risk treatment, and decision making. This conflation makes the RECs’ risk-benefit task confusing, if not impossible. We further realize that RECs are not meant to do all the risk-benefit tasks; instead, (...) RECs are meant to evaluate risks and benefits, appraise risk treatment suggestions, and make the final decision.ConclusionAs such, research ethics would benefit from looking beyond the procedure-level approaches and allowing disciplines like decision studies to be involved in the discourse on RECs’ risk-benefit task. (shrink)