Who decides? Patients, parents, or gatekeepers: pediatric decisions in the craniofacial setting

Cleft Palate Craniofac J. 1995 Nov;32(6):510-4. doi: 10.1597/1545-1569_1995_032_0510_wdppog_2.3.co_2.


Special ethical issues arise for the craniofacial team dealing with pediatric patients, which include competency, surrogacy, and the "best interests" standard. Medical decisions for children are made by surrogates, usually parents, who must use the "best interests" standard. The team's primary responsibility is to the child, not the parents. Children should participate as abilities allow, especially for elective procedures. Increasingly, cost considerations also influence medical decisions. The craniofacial team is often a de factor gatekeeper. Ethically responsible team behavior includes: weighing risks and benefits of proposed interventions; promoting discussion with families and patients to identify "best interests;" monitoring outcomes; and advocacy for craniofacial patients individually and at a policy level. Care guidelines and definitions of basic levels of care should be developed to assist teams with decision-making and advocacy efforts. Ethical analysis is part of both good patient care and good policy formation, and should be a part of regular team deliberations.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Multiple / psychology
  • Abnormalities, Multiple / surgery
  • Child
  • Child Advocacy*
  • Decision Making*
  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Face / abnormalities*
  • Face / surgery
  • Health Care Rationing
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Care Team / standards*
  • Pediatrics / organization & administration
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration
  • Surgery, Plastic / economics