Children, Parents, and Responsibility for Children’s Health

Authored by: Amy Mullin

The Routledge Companion to Bioethics

Print publication date:  December  2014
Online publication date:  December  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415896665
eBook ISBN: 9780203804971
Adobe ISBN: 9781136644849


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We typically take children’s health concerns very seriously, and severely blame those who contribute to children’s ill health through negligence or abuse. But what are the grounds for holding people responsible for avoiding bad outcomes or aiming at good ones when it comes to children’s health? Who should be held responsible—and for what? I argue that parents are among those to be held responsible, but expecting parents to maximize children’s health is too high a standard and other individuals and groups share responsibility with parents. Different examples of how children’s health can be affected will draw attention more to the responsibilities of some rather than others. As a result, this essay will survey five different contexts affecting children’s health: Infant feeding, obesity, exposure to tobacco smoke, parental resistance to medical treatment, and emotional maltreatment.

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