Doctors’ “judgements” and parents’ “wishes”: ethical implications in conflict situations

Rosalind J McDougall and Lynn Gillam
Med J Aust 2014; 200 (7): . || doi: 10.5694/mja13.11326
Published online: 21 April 2014

Through our language, we are unthinkingly privileging doctors’ views over those of parents

In paediatric hospitals, conflicts sometimes arise between parents and doctors about the appropriate medical treatment for a child. Parents sometimes seek a treatment, such as ongoing ventilation or additional radiotherapy, that the medical team considers inappropriate for that particular child. Alternatively, parents sometimes refuse treatments that the child’s doctors view as essential. Some of these cases end up in court, while others are resolved within the hospital.

  • Rosalind J McDougall1,2
  • Lynn Gillam1,2

  • 1 Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC.
  • 2 Children’s Bioethics Centre, Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, VIC.



We thank Alison Brookes for research assistance. Rosalind McDougall is funded by Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award DE120100488.

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.


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