Assent in Paediatric Research and Its Consequences
This article proposes a consequentialist approach to the problem of children’s assent in research. To date, one of the main controversies concerning assent has been about the necessary conditions for making a morally significant decision. Some argue that to make a morally significant decision a child has to understand the abstract concept of altruism. Therefore it is crucial to determine at what stage of development this ability arises. Others argue that the crucial condition is to determine when children gain the capacities for making autonomous decisions regarding participation in research. Since these philosophical and psychological controversies are quite persistent, a calculation of the benefits and harms might be essential for implementing a uniform policy. We argue that the benefits of a properly applied policy requiring assent from all capable children is more beneficial than a policy setting a high age threshold for assent. We also suggest that the consequentialist argument depends on empirical premises that might be either supported or proven false by empirical research.
We would like to thank Ben Koschalka for linguistic editing. This project was funded by the National Science Centre, Poland, DEC-2011/03/D/HS1/01695.
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