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Should children be able to give consent for medical treatment?

Dec 2nd, 2016 by

Can adolescents be trusted to make decisions about their health? New guidance from the US says those as young as seven should know their options

When I was four-and-a-half, something scary happened. I was woken early, had a mask clamped to my face and was wheeled into a white room. I thought I was being abducted. But it was an operating theatre and I was having my squint corrected. I guess they forgot to tell me.

That wouldn’t happen today, but how good are doctors and parents at involving children in medical decisions? A review, published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies in 2008, found that doctors rarely asked children for their opinions. A 2014 study from the University of Surrey found that children between the ages of seven and 16 with cancer were not involved in treatment decisions because “refusal was not an option”. New recommendations last month from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) remind doctors that children should know the options for diagnosis and treatment. They state that children as young as seven can understand and agree to tests or treatment.

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