Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Assent is not consent
  1. Amanda Sibley1,
  2. Mark Sheehan2,
  3. Andrew J Pollard1
  1. 1Oxford Vaccine Group, Department of Paediatrics, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  2. 2The Ethox Centre, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Amanda Sibley, MPH, Oxford Vaccine Group, Centre for Clinical Vaccinology and Tropical Medicine, Department of Paediatrics, University of Oxford, Churchill Hospital, Oxford OX3 7LJ, UK; amanda.sibley{at}


A recent article from Archives of Disease in Childhood outlined problems with the act of gaining child assent for research participation. However the arguments used in the article are incomplete or misguided. Rather than being harmful, assent should be seen as an ethically-appropriate way in which we can engage with the child about his participation in research. While additional clarification of the concept of assent is needed, the child's family context can provide us with a valuable guide to the way we involve him in the decision-making process.

  • Autonomy
  • informed consent
  • minors/parental consent
  • public health ethics
  • family
  • cloning
  • virtue theory and bioethics
  • resource allocation/ priority setting
  • artificial reproduction
  • biotechnology
  • paediatrics
  • medical ethics
  • newborns and minors
  • allowing minors to die
  • donation/procurement of organs/tissues
  • prolongation of life and euthanasia
  • quality/value of life/personhood

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Linked article 100242.

  • Funding AS and MS receive funding from the Department of Health's NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre. AJP is a Jenner Investigator and James Martin Senior Fellow.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

Linked Articles

Other content recommended for you