African sick kid sleeping in hospital bed with doctor telling mother bad news on background. Pediatrician consulting crying woman about ill son diagnosis and treatment in hospital ward

Hastings Center Report

Exploring the Ethics of the Parental Role in Parent-Clinician Conflict

Abstract: In pediatric health care, parents and clinicians sometimes have competing ideas of what should be done for a child. In this article, we explore the idea that notions of what should be done for a child partly depend on one’s perception of one’s role in the child’s life and care. Although role-based appeals are common in health care, role-differentiated approaches to understanding parent-clinician conflicts are underexplored in the pediatric bioethics literature. We argue that, while the parental role is recognized as having social content or value, and sometimes legal force, it is not always recognized as having ethical content or value, as the clinician’s role is. We draw together key insights from the normative and empirical literature on parental roles to show how a role-based lens might inform clinicians’ and clinical ethicists’ approach to cases in which parents and clinicians disagree.

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