Parents do not always know best

By Jennifer Meyer

In this society, adults have complete control over children.

They restrict them from seeing R-rated movies, give them a driving age limit and a legal curfew. Most children are taught from adults to be independent and individual.

Yet, often times when children stand up for themselves or question adult authority, they are told to be “ashamed” of themselves or are called “brats” and “troublemakers.”

Granted these things may be done to protect children from the dangers of the world, there should be instances where children are free to make decisions on their own, especially when making important decisions regarding their own bodies.

Children are not incompetent and are often the victims of age discrimination. Children’s rights may be most at stake when it comes to their health. They should have the right to their own medical decisions, but in most instances they don’t.

Sadly, there are children in this world who are faced with incurable diseases and spend much of their time in hospitals. If a child no longer wants to be on life support or endure another round of chemotherapy or radiation, should they be allowed to make that decision themselves?

Many hospitals require parents to make the decision for the child and children are told they must be 18 years old to sign medical documents. Are adults saying a 16-year-old girl is not capable of deciding if she wants to endure more pain and misery?

According to an expert on ethics in medicine Dr. Douglas S. Diekema from the University of Washington School of Medicine, “parents have the responsibility and authority to make medical decisions on behalf of their children.”

Diekema explained on his Web site for bioethics topics that, since parents know the child best, they’re expected to make the decision for the child.

However, adults need to realize children know themselves. They realize decisions will affect their parents and family, but it will affect the child the most.

Children are not being rebellious when they decide they want control over their own medical decisions. This should be a right of everyone in this world. Giving all the decision-making power to the parents is oppressing children and silencing them on matters that concern their own bodies. Parents are not always right and do not necessarily know what is right for children.

However, the future may be looking brighter for children’s rights. According to the British Medical Journal, the court case of Gillick v. West Norfolk and Wisbech Area Health Authority ruled that children under 16 years old could legally consent to medical treatment without their parent’s authority as long as they fully understand their decision.

Even so, who has the final say in whether the child fully understands?

Adults may not fully understand all of their medical decisions, so why should children? This only encourages the belief that children are not competent enough to make their own decisions.

More needs to be done to ensure a child’s right to seek or deny medical treatment.

The law needs to be changed so that patients under 18 years of age have a right to sign their own medical documents.

Denying children the right to make their own medical decisions continues to instill in the minds of many that children are second class citizens and are not capable of determining their own lives.

Columns reflect the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the Northern Star staff.