Abusive Head Trauma and Parental Participation in Pediatric Decision Making


Erin Talati Paquette and Lainie Friedman Ross




Decision making for children who suffer abusive head trauma invokes multiple ethical considerations. The degree to which parents are permitted to participate in decision making after the injury has occurred is controversial. In particular, in this issue of The Journal of Clinical Ethics, Grigorian and colleagues raise concerns about the potential for conflict of interest in end-of-life decision making if the parents are facing criminal charges that could be escalated if the child dies. There are additional concerns about the parents’ capacity to make decisions that are best for the child, given that the injury occurred. We argue that there are important reasons not to exclude parents from the decision-making process and that, with appropriate safeguards in place, parents are integral to determining what is best for the child.




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