Should we presume moral turpitude in our children?--small children and consent to medical research

Theor Med Bioeth. 2003;24(2):121-9. doi: 10.1023/a:1024651013837.


When children are too young to make their own autonomous decisions, decisions have to be made for them. In certain contexts we allow parents and others to make these decisions, and do not interfere unless the decision clearly violates the best interest of the child. In other contexts we put a priori limits on what kind of decisions parents can make, and/or what kinds of considerations they have to take into account. Consent to medical research currently falls into the second group mentioned here. We want to consider and ultimately reject one of the arguments put forward for putting medical research into the second category. We will argue that some objections to children's participation in research are either based on an implausibly restrictive conception of what is in fact in the child's best interests or that there is an implicit and false premise hidden in this argument; i.e., the premise that our children have so deeply fallen into moral turpitude that we must assume that they would not want to fulfill their moral obligations, or, that they will grow up to be morally deficient and will then wish not to have acted well while a child.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Advocacy / ethics*
  • Ethics, Research
  • Human Experimentation / ethics*
  • Humans
  • Moral Obligations
  • Morals*
  • Parental Consent / ethics*
  • Pediatrics / ethics
  • Proxy