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Informed Consent (cont.)

Children and Consent

The concept of informed consent has little direct application in children. Although minors may have appropriate decision-making capacity, they usually do not have legal empowerment to give informed consent. Therefore, parents or other surrogate decision-makers may give informed permission for diagnosis and treatment of a child, preferably with the assent of the child whenever possible.

  • In most cases, parents are assumed to act in the best interest of their child. But circumstances may occur where there is a conflict between what the parents and the health care providers feel is in the best interest. State laws cover some of these areas of potential dispute, for example, in cases of suspected child abuse.
  • Other disagreements in care may result in court orders that specify what treatment should occur (for example, blood transfusions), or in the court-ordered appointment of a guardian to make medical decisions for the child.
  • Most states have laws that designate certain minors as emancipated and entitled to the full rights of adults, including children in these situations:
    • Self-supporting and/or not living at home
    • Married
    • Pregnant or a parent
    • In the military
    • Declared emancipated by a court
  • Most states also give decision-making authority to otherwise unemancipated minors with decision-making capacity (mature minors) who are seeking treatment for certain medical conditions, such as drug or alcohol abuse, pregnancy, or sexually transmitted diseases.

Medically reviewed by a Board Certified Family Practice Physician


American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Bioethics.Informed consent, parental permission, and assent in pediatric practice.Pediatrics.Feb1995;95(2):314-7.[Medline].
Food and Drug Administration.Food and Drug Administration.Available at
Iserson KV, Sanders AB, Mathieu D.Autonomy and informed consent.In: Ethics in Emergency Medicine.2nd ed.Galen Press Ltd;1995.
National Institutes of Health.National Institutes of Health.Available at

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/24/2015
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