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Involving parents in paediatric clinical ethics committee deliberations: a current controversy

Abstract

In cases where the best interests of the child are disputed or finely balanced, Clinical Ethics Committees (CECs) can provide a valuable source of advice to clinicians and trusts on the pertinent ethical dimensions. Recent judicial cases have criticised the lack of formalised guidance and inconsistency in the involvement of parents in CEC deliberations. In Manchester University NHS FT v Verden [2022], Arbuthnot J set out important procedural guidance as to how parental involvement in CEC deliberations might be managed. She also confirmed substantive guidance on the role of parental views in determining the child’s best interests. We agree that it is good practice to ensure that the patient voice is heard in ethics processes, but how that is achieved is controversial. Surely it is best that what matters most to a patient and their family, whether facts or values, is conveyed directly to those considering the moral issues involved, rather than via a prism of another party. The approach suggested in the Verden case has much in common with the process used by our CEC. In this article, we commend Arbuthnot J’s approach, provide an example of its effective operation and consider what it might mean for ethics processes.

  • ethics
  • ethics committees
  • child
  • family

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