Parents are generally given enormous leeway in how they raise their children. But there are limits. Physical or sexual abuse are perhaps the most obvious limits. But anything this side of outright abuse is generally considered fair game at least from a legal point of view. And ethically, we generally give each other a lot of space in this regard. We may quietly disapprove of another person’s childrearing strategies, but we tend to keep our opinions to ourselves.
But when it comes to healthcare, things get tricky. Courts (and public opinion) take a dim view of parents endangering their children’s health, whether that results from failure to seek necessary care, withholding specific treatments, or substituting in place of “standard” treatment some other form of “traditional” or alternative medicine. Questions here include whether parents have the right to impose their own preference for alternative medicine on their kids; whether parents have a duty to listen to doctors; and whether (or rather, at what age or developmental stage) children should a) participate in decision making and ultimately b) make their own decisions.
Here are some resources on this topic:
Academic Journal Articles
- Parental perceptions and use of complementary and alternative medicine practices for children with autistic spectrum disorders in private practice (Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics)
- The use of alternative medicine by children (American Academy of Pediatrics)
- A postmodern Pandora’s box: anti-vaccination misinformation on the Internet (Vaccine)
- Prevalence and parental perceptions of complementary and alternative medicine use by children with cancer in a multi‐ethnic Southeast Asian population (Pediatric Blood & Cancer)
- Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Parental Nondisclosure of Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Over-the-Counter Medication Use in Children’s Asthma Management (Journal of Pediatric Health Care)
- Do Parents Have the Right to Refuse Standard Treatment for Their Child With Favorable-Prognosis Cancer? Ethical and Legal Concerns (Journal of Clinical Oncology)
- Aboriginal or not, there is no parental right to harm your child
- Parental rights are trumped when decisions are based on ignorance
- When naturopathy kills (Alheli Picazo, National Post)