Overriding parents’ medical decisions for their children: a systematic review of normative literature

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Abstract

This paper reviews the ethical literature on conflicts between health professionals and parents about medical decision-making for children. We present the results of a systematic review which addressed the question ‘when health professionals and parents disagree about the appropriate course of medical treatment for a child, under what circumstances is the health professional ethically justified in overriding the parents’ wishes?’ We identified nine different ethical frameworks that were put forward by their authors as applicable across various ages and clinical scenarios. Each of these frameworks centred on a different key moral concept including harm, constrained parental autonomy, best interests, medically reasonable alternatives, responsible thinking and rationality.

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