Table 1

 Schematic representation of different approaches towards the need for informed permission, assent/consent according to different dominions

DominionDevelopmental stages
FetusNewbornsInfantsChildhoodAdulthood* Adolescence
*Adulthood: usually but not always legally defined.
†Parents: mother or/and father or legally authorised person.
Demography (age in years)00⩽2>2 to ⩽14>14
Biological relationship; possible forms of permission to researchParents; informed permission†Parents; informed permission†Parents; informed permission†
Fetus; implicit assentInfant; implicit assentChild; assentChild; assent or consent
PhilosophyStatus as a human being recognised only when the full capability of free decision is reachedFull capability of free decision (age, maturity)
ReligionStatus as a human being recognised from conception onwards
EthicsEthical regulators: decisions apply to all ages
LawStatus as a human and requirement/possibility for individual consent depending on national legislations