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Managing ethically questionable parental requests: growth suppression and manipulation of puberty.

Research paper by David D Isaacs, Bernadette B Tobin, Julie J Hamblin, Emma E Slaytor, Kim C KC Donaghue, Craig C Munns, Henry A HA Kilham

Indexed on: 29 Sep '11Published on: 29 Sep '11Published in: Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health



Abstract

Doctors sometimes struggle with ethically challenging requests for treatment from children's parents. For instance, we have recently had two requests by parents of children, a girl and a boy, each with a severe developmental disability, for hormonal therapy to suppress growth and puberty: the girl's parents requested, in addition, hysterectomy and mastectomy. We propose a reliable approach to assessing the ethical and legal aspects of these and other requests for 'non-therapeutic' treatment of a minor who lacks the capacity to give informed consent. We argue that a doctor should first assess whether the request is one that he or she can, in conscience, accede to, and then, if it is, seek the authorisation of a court. We outline considerations relevant to the doctor's assessment of both the ethical issues and to the need for court authorisation.