In Further Defense of “Better than Best (Interest)”

 

Lainie Friedman Ross, The Journal of Clinical Ethics 30, no. 3 (Fall 2019): 232-9

 

In their thoughtful critiques of my article “Better than Best (Interest Standard) in Pediatric Decision Making,” my colleagues make clear that there is little consensus on what is (are) the appropriate guidance and intervention principles in pediatric decision making, and disagree about whether one principle can serve both functions. Hester proposes his own unitary principle, the reasonable interest standard, which, like the best interest standard from which it is derived, encourages parents to aim for the great, although Hester tempers it with a pragmatic principle that allows consideration of cultural/family values and practical/financial/social/psychological circumstances. I reject the aspirational guidance principle because it is too demanding, and I also reject the notion that this pragmatic condition “gives permission for others to extol parents to give reasons” for their decisions, because it allows too much interference into the family and its decision making. Whereas the other respondents and I focus on whether and when third parties should intervene in the doctor-patient (surrogate) relationship, Navin and Wasserman mistakenly redefine intervention to include physicians’ behaviors that attempt to influence parents, ignoring the integral role of shared decision making—a bidirectional discussion in which physicians help patients (surrogates) select among reasonable medical options through education, and, when necessary, motivation or persuasion. Diekema and Salter focus on the harm principle for intervention, ignoring other conditions in which intervention may be appropriate and institutions other than the state that may intervene. Paquette’s overly narrow interpretation of who has positive obligations to children fails to ensure that a child’s basic interests and needs are met. Finally, Bester claims that the “need to choose the available option that best promotes or protects the child’s basic interests” is akin to a focus on best interests. But constrained parental autonomy does not require parents to choose the option that best promotes a child’s basic interests. Rather, it requires respect for broad parental discretion about how they raise their child unless their decisions fail to promote the child’s basic needs and interests.

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