chapter  10
16 Pages

‘You don’t need proof when you’ve got instinct!’: gut feelings and some limits to parental authority


While, in Europe and beyond, decisions about children who lack competence to contribute to their treatment decisions are based upon their best interests, both the European Court of Human Rights and bioethical theorists consider that there must be substantial involvement of parents in these decisions. In the United Kingdom (UK), legal and clinical guidelines say that critically ill children’s best interests must be agreed by their parents and doctors, or the courts, in a process of shared decision-making. There is widespread acceptance that there should be limitations on parental authority in shared decisions, yet parental authority is ill-defined, and without some agreement on the source of parental authority it is difficult to limit it either cogently or consistently.