Current Controversies: Navigating Conflicts When Parents and Providers Disagree About Medical Care

The Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics hosted its third conference on pediatric bioethics on July 13 and 14, 2007, in Seattle, Washington.

The conference attracted more than 200 attendees from the United States, Canada and Australia who gathered to discuss the ethical issue related to disagreements between parents and providers about medical care.

Conference Introduction

Parents and caretakers of children may not always agree with the medical care recommended by their healthcare providers.

In some cases, parents may request medical tests or treatments that healthcare providers do not think they should provide. In other cases, parents may refuse medical care that providers think is important for the well-being of the child.

These conflicts may reflect differing opinions about how to weigh the benefits and burdens of certain medical interventions. They may also reflect misunderstandings, cultural and religious differences and a lack of trust in the healthcare providers.

These disagreements raise many important ethical questions about how to navigate situations in which conflict develops:

  • When can healthcare providers refuse to provide medical care that a parent requests?
  • Can physicians ever withdraw life-sustaining treatment over the objections of a parent?
  • How much freedom should parents have to refuse medical tests or treatments for a child?
  • Does it matter if a parent's objections to recommended therapy have a religious or cultural basis?
  • What strategies might prove effective in resolving conflicts that arise over the clinical care of children?

In July 2007, leaders in the field of pediatric bioethics discussed these issues in Seattle, Washington, on the shores of Puget Sound. Below you will find the archived webcast presentations and more, so you can join in the continued exploration of these ethical questions.

2007 Pediatric Bioethics ConferencePresentations

Watch the UWTV program series

Day 1

Welcome and introduction

Parental Requests for "Futile" Treatment
Presented by Norman Fost, MD, MPH

Physician Refusal to Provide Life-Prolonging Medical Interventions
Presented by John J. Paris, SJ, PhD

Show Me the Money: Financial Considerations in Responding to Parental Wishes
Benjamin S. Wilfond, MD
Watch video
View presentation (PDF)

Should Developmentally Delayed Children Be Listed for Solid Organ Transplants?
David Magnus, PhD
Watch video
View presentation (PDF)

Panel and questions
Norman Fost, John J. Paris, Benjamin S. Wilfond, David Magnus
Watch video

Parents as Living Donors for Their Children: Who Decides the Permissible Degree of Risks? And What Criteria Do They Use?
Presented by Lainie Friedman Ross, MD, PhD 
View presentation (PDF)

The Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Pediatric Patients: When Accommodation Becomes a Problem
Presented by Christine Harrison, PhD
View presentation (PDF)

Using Children as a Means to a Sibling's Health: Ethical Concerns and Justifications for Pediatric Sibling Transplants
Presented by Rebecca Pentz, PhD
View presentation (PDF)

Platform presentations of selected submitted abstracts

Futility, State Law and the Fate of Children
Mary Anderlik Majumder, JD, PhD
View presentation (PDF)

Responding to Parental Requests for a Caregiver of a Different Race or Ethnicity
Kyle Anstey, PhD
View presentation (PDF)

Nobody Likes Premies
Annie Janvier, PhD, FRCPC
View presentation (PDF)

Parental Provider Conflict and Calling in the Law…Trump or Wild Card?
Kellie Lang, JD
View presentation (PDF)

Day 2

Welcome and introduction

Refusals in Pediatrics
Presented by Lainie Friedman Ross, MD, PhD
Watch video
View presentation (PDF)

Christian Science and the Medical Care of Children
Norman Fost, MD, MPH

Parental Discretion in Refusal of Treatment for Newborns
John J. Paris, SJ, PhD
Watch video

Panel and questions
Lainie Friedman Ross, Norman Fost, John J. Paris
Watch video

Understanding Differences in Conflicts Surrounding the Medical Care of Children
Presented by Douglas S. Diekema, MD, MPH
Watch video
View presentation (PDF)

News Coverage

Press Releases