Who owns the child in hospital? A preliminary discussion

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Aim. To 'own' a person is considered an infringement of human rights, but we suggest that concepts of ownership influence interactions between parents and staff when a child is admitted to hospital. This paper aims to stimulate debate and contains an explanation of the exploration of the literature for research and discussion of ownership of the child. Method. A wide variety of library indexes, databases and populist media were examined although it was impossible to examine all literature which may have contained references to this topic, and, apart from databases which contained abstracts in English, we could not include literature written in any language other than English, Swedish, and Icelandic. Findings. We found no research that examines how concepts of ownership of a child affects communication between health professionals and parents and, ultimately, the delivery of health care. This paper begins discussion on the issues. Discussion. Historical literature shows that ownership of humans has been a part of many cultures, and parents were once considered to own their children. Ownership of another has legal connotations, for instance in guardianship struggles of children during marriage breakup and in ethical debates over surrogacy and products of assisted conception. Within health care, it becomes a contentious issue in transplantation of body parts, in discourse on autonomy and informed consent, and for religious groups who refuse blood transfusions. In health care, models such as family centred care and partnership in care depend on positive communication between parents and staff. If a hospital staff member feels that he/she owns a child for whom he/she is caring, then conflict between the staff member and the parents over who has the 'best interests of the child' at heart is possible. Conclusion. We encourage debate about concepts of who owns the hospitalized child - the parents or the staff? Should it be argued at all? Is the whole concept of ownership of another, be it adult or child, the ethical antithesis to modern beliefs about human rights? Comment on this issue is invited.


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Sidor (från-till)213-222
TidskriftJournal of Advanced Nursing
StatusPublished - 2003
Peer review utfördJa