Deciding for a child: a comprehensive analysis of the best interest standard

Theor Med Bioeth. 2012 Jun;33(3):179-98. doi: 10.1007/s11017-012-9219-z.


This article critically examines, and ultimately rejects, the best interest standard as the predominant, go-to ethical and legal standard of decision making for children. After an introduction to the presumption of parental authority, it characterizes and distinguishes six versions of the best interest standard according to two key dimensions related to the types of interests emphasized. Then the article brings three main criticisms against the best interest standard: (1) that it is ill-defined and inconsistently appealed to and applied, (2) that it is unreasonably demanding and narrow, and (3) that it fails to respect the family. Finally, it argues that despite the best interest standard's potent rhetorical power, it is irreparably encumbered by too much inconsistency and confusion and should be rejected.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Conflict of Interest
  • Conflict, Psychological
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Decision Making / ethics*
  • Ethical Analysis
  • Ethical Theory
  • Family*
  • Humans
  • Moral Obligations*
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Parental Consent / ethics*
  • Parental Consent / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Parents
  • Truth Disclosure
  • United States