The Parent’s Dilemma: Pediatric Assent in Research

The Parent’s Dilemma: Pediatric Assent in Research
Gianna McMillan
Pediatrics Perspectives, 17 August 2022
Parents and their children rarely understand what it means “to consent” to participate in pediatric clinical research. This became clear during my 15 years as a patient advocate, when I facilitated hundreds of conversations about the implications of aggressive treatment of the very young and the existential crises faced by parents who made life-or death decisions for their children. In the United States, most children with cancer enter a clinical trial,1 and although parents understand enough of the scientific information to deliberate on the pros and cons of research, it is harder to grasp the subtleties of “consenting for” experimental studies, “giving permission to” the investigators, or “gaining assent from” the child. This lack of clarity leaves parents confused about the ethical weight and propriety of their decisions or unaware of any ethical significance at all…

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