Ethical issues in treating children
Children are not autonomous and therefore their parents are required to make health-care decisions for them. The standard used is that of the 'best interests' of the child. Increasingly children's views are being taken seriously in health-care-related decision making, depending on their age and maturity and the gravity of the decision to be made. The Children's Act (Act 38 of 2005) has lowered the age of consent to 12 years for medical therapy and HIV testing. If the child refuses medical treatment or an intervention that is of limited effectiveness, especially if that therapy or intervention also carries signifcant risk or severe side-effects, and the parents agree, then the doctor should respect the decision. However, if the intervention is in the child's best interests, the doctor may override the child and parents' decision.