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The Limits of Parental Authority to Accept or Refuse Medical Treatment

Miller, Geoffrey MA, MB, MD, MPhil, FRCP, FRACP

CONTINUUM: Lifelong Learning in Neurology:
doi: 10.1212/01.CON.0000399085.05007.02
Ethical Perspectives
Abstract

ABSTRACT: The legal and ethical right of parents to refuse medical treatment for their children differs from the authority possessed by competent adults with decisional capacity. Parents have a duty to act in the best interests of their children from the children's perspective and not to inflict harm. Best interests are determined by weighing benefits and burdens, which includes using evidence-based outcomes and value judgments. The result is placed along a risk/benefit spectrum. If the result is close to low risk/high benefit, the parents have a strong obligation to accept a health care team recommendation. Otherwise, parents may choose between reasonable medical options without threat or coercion.

Author Information

Address correspondence to Dr Geoffrey Miller, Yale University School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, 333 Cedar St, Box 208064, New Haven, CT 06510, geoffrey.miller@yale.edu.

Relationship Disclosure: Dr Miller reports no disclosure.

Unlabeled Use of Products/Investigational Use Disclosure: Dr Miller reports no disclosure.

© 2011 American Academy of Neurology