Abstract

In this paper, I offer a view beyond that which would narrowly reduce the role of parents in medical decision making to acting as custodians of the best interests of children and toward an account of family authority and family autonomy. As a fundamental social unit, the good of the family is usually appreciated, at least in part, in terms of its ability successfully to instantiate its core moral and cultural understandings as well as to pass on such commitments to future generations. The putative rights of children to expression, information, freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and to freedom of association with others are, in this essay, assessed from the perspective of those conditions necessary for the family to function as a moral community. In so doing, I respond to the move to liberate children from parental authority and to effect the transformation of the family as implied by the United Nations’ “Convention on the Rights of the Child” and the pediatric bioethics it supports.

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