Pediatric Authenticity: Hiding in Plain Sight

Ryan H. Nelson, Bryanna Moore, Jennifer Blumenthal-Barby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The range of decisions considered permissible in pediatrics is typically understood to involve a balance between patient interests and parental or surrogate authority. In this article, we argue that there is a distinct set of considerations relevant to pediatric decision-making that is often neglected or unacknowledged in pediatrics—namely, considerations related to patient authenticity. The standard of pediatric authenticity asks not what is best for the patient or what the patient would choose but, rather, what is most consistent with who the patient is. We begin the article with an overview of the best interest standard and suggest that authenticity can elucidate considerations that fall between a child’s strictly medical interests and broader familial or relational interests. Next, we discuss authenticity in greater detail, noting the limits of applying certain philosophical conceptions of authenticity in pediatrics. We then sketch our own account of pediatric authenticity and distinguish it from the related concepts of subjective interests and assent. We conclude with a discussion of three cases illustrating the normative significance of authenticity in a range of situations arising in pediatric medicine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)42-50
Number of pages9
JournalHastings Center Report
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022


  • assent
  • authenticity
  • best interests
  • clinical ethics
  • decision-making for children and adolescents
  • pediatrics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Philosophy
  • Health Policy


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