Date of Defense:
May 9, 2021
Biomedical ethics is a field of ethics that examines the moral implications of medicine and research to ensure the safety of patients. Current ethical guidelines in medicine express the importance of autonomy and the patient’s ability to govern themselves and their medical decisions. However, the legal inability of minors to execute authority over their medical treatment has left ill children and their families with the predicament of balancing the value of the child’s rights with the decisions of the parents and physicians. Theories of autonomy development and models of physician-family relationships guide the decision-making process for families who encounter these scenarios. This literature review examines how we define autonomy in children and adolescents with severe and terminal illnesses, and how we can expand our view of patient rights to give children increased self-governance in medical decision-making.