Medical decision-making and minors: issues of consent and assent

Adolescence. Summer 2003;38(150):343-58.


The physician-patient relationship has been described as an egalitarian partnership in which patients and physicians work together to make healthcare decisions. Although adults receive considerable encouragement to become active participants in medical decision-making, children and adolescents often have little voice in such decisions and are granted limited access to confidential medical care. After a brief discussion of legal perspectives on informed consent, the present review examines the developmental literature on children and adolescents' capacities to make medical decisions that are informed, voluntary, and rational. The purposes and benefits of assent are identified. Remaining questions of how to evaluate capacity and balance parental and minor autonomy are explored.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Decision Making* / ethics
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent* / ethics
  • Minors*
  • Parents
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Treatment Refusal