Consent and Decisional Authority in Children’s Health Care Decisionmaking: A Reply to Dan Brock

  • Robert L. Holmes
Part of the Philosophy and Medicine book series (PHME, volume 33)


Dan Brock argues persuasively that the general presumption of incompetence on the part of minors to decide about their medical care seems indefensible for children roughly above the age of 14 [1]. The presumption still exists and apparently remains strong in the law. But as Angela Holder points out [2], the courts are moving in the other direction. I am essentially in agreement with this, and find most of Brock’s analysis of the notion of competence convincing. However, I am unconvinced that children at even earlier ages may not often have as much competence in this area as most adults. I stress this comparative judgment, because I think it is important that, in our concern for the well-being of children, we do not expect more from them than from adults in comparable situations. That having been said, I will argue that children nonetheless probably should not be given the authority to make such decisions, even though adults in similar situations should. That is, I will argue both that children have the necessary competence and that decisionmaking authority should not be extended to them.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Brock, D.: 1989, ‘The Competence of Children for Health Care Decision-making’, in this volume, pp. 181–212.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Holder, A.: 1989, ‘Children and Adolescents: Their Right to Decide About Their Own Health Care’, in this volume, pp. 161–172.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert L. Holmes
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of RochesterRochester

Personalised recommendations