Balancing Liberation and Protection: A Moderate Approach to Adolescent Health Care Decision-Making
Bioethics 2011 May; 25(4): 202-8
In this paper I examine the debate between 'protectionists' and 'liberationists' concerning the appropriate role of minors in decision-making about their health care, focusing particularly on disagreements between the two sides regarding adolescents. Protectionists advocate a more traditional, paternalistic approach in which minors have relatively little input into the healthcare decision-making process, and decisions are made for them by parents or other adults, guided by a commitment to the patient's best interests. Liberationists, on the other hand, argue in favour of expanded participation by minors in treatment decisions, and decision-making authority for at least some adolescents. My examination of the debate includes discussion of liberationist shifts that have taken place in the medical community as well as in legal policy and practice, and consideration of recent research on adolescent development. In the final section of the paper, I propose a moderate position that addresses both liberationist and protectionist concerns.
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