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Ethical Considerations in Balancing Parental Autonomy With Protecting a Child With Epilepsy From Harm

Miller-Horn, Jill MD, MS

CONTINUUM: Lifelong Learning in Neurology: February 2016 - Volume 22 - Issue 1, Epilepsy - p 262–265
doi: 10.1212/CON.0000000000000275
Ethical Perspectives

ABSTRACT Neurologists are expected to accommodate parental decisions in the medical care for their child, unless the parental decision places the child at an unnecessary risk of serious harm. Sometimes, respect for parental autonomy is in conflict with the physician’s professional obligation to protect the patient from harm and to optimize treatment for a particular disease or condition. This case illustrates an ethical dilemma created when the neurologist and parent disagree about the most appropriate medical treatment for a child with epilepsy. Viewing the disagreement within an ethical framework, however, provides the parties to the disagreement with an opportunity to understand the beliefs and motivations of everyone involved and creates the potential for an outcome based upon the child’s best interest.

Address correspondence to Dr Jill Miller-Horn, The State University of New York Stony Brook, Department of Neurology, Health Sciences Center T12-020, Stony Brook, NY, 11794,

Relationship Disclosure: Dr Miller-Horn reports no disclosure.

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

© 2016 American Academy of Neurology
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