Dignity and Informed Consent in the Treatment of Mature Minors
Bello, Bidemi Ademola
Journal international de bioéthique = International journal of bioethics 2010 Dec; 21(4): 103-22, 164-5
In today's world, as evinced in various human rights provisions, emphasis is placed on the assertion and protection of the entrenched rights of every human and particularly the dignity of humans and respect of human autonomy. Medical/health workers are concerned about protecting every patient's right to the dignity of his or her person. This led to the formulation of the concept of self-determination and informed consent in medical diagnosis and treatments. However, serious concern is placed on these principles especially as it affects mature minors, a group of individuals who by conduct demand a level of respect but may at the same time be viewed as not capable of making the "best" informed decisions, especially about health. The following issues may arise as a result of the aforementioned concerns: --are mature young ones entitled to right of self-determination and informed consent despite the alleged fear that they may lack capacity to make informed decisions? --if no, who should decide on their behalf--their parents, their medical/health provider or the society/government (especially since the 3 (three) interested groups may have different and conflicting stands on what is best for the child); --if the answer to the initial question is yes, to what extent should mature minors be informed of their medical choices and be allowed to exercise their right of self-determination? --should they be guided? --and who should so guide them? In resolving the above issue, due consideration has been given not only to legal and bio-ethical provisions of some countries but also to international conventions which several countries are party to. Thereafter, it became clear that most authorities are of the view that mature minors should be fully informed and be allowed to have a say in health decisions, coaching them with few exceptions. Ultimately, because of the importance of respect for human dignity, autonomy and self-determination along with medical disclosure in today's world, it will be recommended that laws in a number of jurisdictions need to be reviewed to reflect the current international trend and amended or replaced as the need might be.
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