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J Law Med. 2013 Dec;21(2):265-72.

Consent, competence and lies to children: veracity in paediatric care.

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Otago University, New Zealand.
Dunedin Hospital and Otago Bioethics Centre, University of Otago Medical School, New Zealand.


Principles of consent and autonomy based on adult-oriented bioethics must be modified to take account of the cognitive development occurring in childhood. That development differentially affects executive and more theoretical intelligence and is greatly influenced by experience. Thus, a judgment about a matter of degree is required by clinicians dealing with children, particularly when children diverge from the choices that would be endorsed by the adults and clinicians surrounding them. If we accept that partnership and the evolution of consent away from a formal procedure are both indicative of current ethical and medico-legal thinking, then it follows that the involvement of a child in an open-ended conversation taking account of the realistic prospects and the subjective experiences associated with treatment is the right way to proceed and that it should reflect the ability of the child to understand what is at stake and how it will affect her or him. That carries implications for the child's access to adequate information about the condition, the treatment, and the decisions being made.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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