Children's Consent to Surgery

Children's Consent to Surgery

Children's Consent to Surgery

Children's Consent to Surgery

Synopsis

When are children old enough to understand medical information? When are they mature enough to make wise decisions in their best interests? This book explores these questions through detailed qualitative research. It is based on in-depth interviews with children undergoing surgery, their parents and many of the staff caring for them in four city hospitals. In their own words, the child patients challenge many of the accepted ideas about their rights, interests and abilities.

Excerpt

Beds were ranged around the large ward, with children sitting or lying on them. Two boys rushed around in wheelchairs, and one, lying on his front and half covered in plaster of Paris, was trying out a large skateboard. Jean, aged 8, lay looking bored and irritated, and beside her sat her mother seeming very tired. I went over to them. ‘Hello, we’re doing a research project on what children think about having surgery. Might you both be interested in talking to me about your views?’ ‘Well, er, yes’, said Jean’s mother. We looked at Jean. ‘Yes’, she said firmly, nodding dismissively at her mother, ‘as long as she goes away’.

Before Jean’s mother went for a tea break, I explained that our project involved looking at how much young patients were told about their operation and all the planned treatment, and how much they shared and wanted to share in decisions about surgery. Would it be all right if I talked to Jean and her mother before the operation, and to Jean a few days later? I would like to ask about why Jean had come into hospital, and how she hoped the treatment would help her, and also a few questions about her family and school. Of course they could say ‘no’ if they did not want to take part in the project, and tell me if they wanted to stop talking to me at any time. When I used anything that Jean had said in our reports, I would make sure that no-one would know that she was the one who had made the comment, by changing her name. Jean thought that she would rather be famous than anonymous, so I explained the advantages of confidentiality, and gave them a leaflet about our project to keep.

Later I met Marie, aged 15, and her mother. After the usual explanations, Marie said she would be very interested to take part in our project. ‘Oh yes’, added her mother, ‘and we must call Daddy over’. ‘Oh no mother’, said Marie, but her father and brother were summoned and we all sat in a row along the side of the bed. 1 avoided issues that Marie might not want to talk about in . . .

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