Ethical Decision-Making in Pediatrics Holly K. Tabor, Ph.D.
Ethical Decision-Making in Pediatrics Holly K. Tabor, Ph.D. Assistant Professor Department of Pediatrics University of Washington Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics Seattle Childrens Hospital Every interaction between a doctor and a patient has a moral component. -Carrese and Sugarman, The
Inescapable Relevance of Bioethics for the Practicing Clinician (2006) Pediatrics vs. Adult Care: What are the important differences? Decision-Making Authority In Care of Children: Presumption of decision making ability In Care of Adults:
Adults can chose who can speak for them (surrogates) Surrogates are expected to use substituted judgment Presumption of lack of decision making capacity have to demonstrate developmental ability Parents are presumed to speak for children
Parents are expected to use best interests Choosing & Refusing Treatment In Care of Adults: In Care of Children: Adults (and surrogates) can accept or reject life saving treatments Threshold for state mandated intervention is high
Parents have less discretion in refusing life saving treatments Threshold for state intervention, based on neglect, is lower Medical decision-making for children: Beyond consent Parental Permission Better concept than proxy consent Requires more attention to childs interests Providers have increased role in decision making
Assent Developmentally appropriate awareness of condition Disclosing expectations for tests and treatments Assessing understanding and voluntariness Soliciting preference when they will be followed AAP Committee on Bioethics. Pediatrics 1995 How ethical tensions arise: The child patient has a voice that needs to be respected in a developmentally appropriate fashion. Parents or legal guardians have decision-making rights, because they are often the best person to judge and protect the interests of a child.
Children are vulnerable and clinicians have special responsibilities to protect the interests of child patients. The Balancing Act of Pediatric Bioethics Childs Vulnerability Parental Autonomy Childs Well-Being and Interests
Childs Developing Autonomy Societal Interests and Responsibilities Importance of the Family for the Childs Development Case 1: Parental Decision-making You are a primary care physician who is assuming the care of a family. Upon review of the past medical history of the 1 year old
daughter, you find that she has no immunizations although she received several well child examinations with their chiropractic caregiver. Her current medications include Chinese herbal supplements and the family follows a vegan diet. You ask the parents why your patient hasnt received immunizations and they state, We dont believe in immunizations. Ethical Issues in Case 1 Parental autonomy vs. Best Interests Isnt the dilemma best interests vs. best interests instead of parental autonomy vs. best interests? What does best interests really mean?
What a reasonable person would choose Expecting parents to promote the welfare (relief of suffering, preservation or restoration of function, quality of life) of their child Providers may need to tolerate decisions they disagree with if not harmful to the child Understanding the Parents Perspective What are their fears or concerns? What are the potential cultural beliefs informing their views? Ethical Issues in Case 1 Parental autonomy vs. public health Three ways unimmunized can cause harm:
If become ill, increase risk to other unimmunized kids who rely on herd immunity (children with underlying medical conditions) Also increase risk to immunized kids (small % remain susceptible) Immunized individuals share burden of cost of treating illness in unimmunized kids The Problem of Free-riders Parents take advantage of herd immunity Place family interests above civic responsibility Is this fair?
Ethical Issues in Case 1 Law respects parents ability to be best judge of what is in their childs bestinterest. Except in unique cases (abuse, neglect, religious sacrifices). Limits on Parental Autonomy Physical Abuse Neglect Life-threatening Illness/Emergency ----Bright Line-------Grey Zone--- Impact on development or disability
Restrictive or controversial practices Case 2: Adolescent Decision-Making A 14 year-old boy is admitted to the Hematology-Oncology ward with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He presented to the Emergency Department with pallor and dizziness and was found to have a hematocrit of 14.9%. The oncologist would like to start best available chemotherapy immediately, but the patient and his legal guardians (aunt and uncle) have made it clear both verbally and in writing that, as Jehovahs Witnesses, they will refuse all blood products. His chemotherapy is myeloablative and will cause a further decline in his hematocrit. There is virtually
a 100% chance of death with this leukemia if it is not treated and an approximately 75% chance of survival with best available chemotherapy. Adolescents and Pediatric Bioethics Adolescents often capable of meaningful participation in health-care decisions Shifting from assent + parental permission to consent. Movement in pediatric practice and research in the U.S., UK, and Europe to include older children and adolescents as active participants in medical decision-making
(And many states have mature minor clauses) Summary of Empirical Data on Pediatric Capacity While minors below ages of 11-13 do not generally possess the cognitive capacities of adults, minors 15 are not any less competent to consent than most adults. (Grisso, Vierling, 1978; Weithorn, Campell, 1982) Chronological age does not always track cognitive development, but by age 14
most minors demonstrate capacities required by rational consent. (Leiken, 1983) Recent studies on affect, assessments of risk, and neuroscience on brain development reveal limitations related to emotion and life experience. (Johnson et al, 2009) Two Useful Distinctions CAPACITY Full capacity: Consent should be obtained from patient, and refusals binding (legal: 18 years old).
Developing capacity: If parents and patient disagree, every attempt should be made to persuade the patient rather than override the patients wishes. Impaired or Undeveloped decision-making capacity: Obtain parental consent and override refusal. ESSENTIAL v. NONESSENTIAL TREATMENT (in minors without full capacity)
Essential treatment: only parental permission/consent required; childs assent recommended but dissent not binding (mature minor exceptions). Non-essential treatment: dissent may be ethically binding. Refusals: When should the refusals of minors be binding? Refusals
Full capacity: Consent should be obtained, and refusals binding. Developing capacity: If the intervention is therapeutic but not life-saving, every attempt should be made to persuade the patient, rather than overriding the patients wishes. Refusals may still bind in some cases. Impaired or Undeveloped decision-making capacity: Obtain parental consent and override refusal. Local Resources for Pediatric Bioethics
Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics http://bioethics.seattlechildrens.org Faculty:
Ben Wilfond, MD Doug Diekema, MD, MPH Maureen Kelley, PhD David Woodrum, MD Holly Tabor, PhD Doug Opel, MD Activities: Grand Rounds, Case Conferences, Weekly Bioethics Seminar, Annual Conferences Thanks!
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