PEDIATRICS recent issues

Barrier Protection Use by Adolescents During Sexual Activity

Rates of sexual activity, pregnancies, and births among adolescents have continued to decline during the past decade to historic lows. Despite these positive trends, many adolescents remain at risk for unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). When used consistently and correctly, latex and synthetic barrier methods reduce the risk of many STIs, including HIV, and pregnancy. This update of the 2013 policy statement is intended to assist pediatricians in understanding and supporting the use of barrier methods by their patients to prevent unintended pregnancies and STIs and address obstacles to their use.

Barrier Protection Use by Adolescents During Sexual Activity

Rates of sexual activity, pregnancies, and births among adolescents have continued to decline during the past decade to historic lows. Despite these positive trends, many adolescents remain at risk for unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). This technical report discusses the new data and trends in adolescent sexual behavior and barrier protection use. Since 2017, STI rates have increased and use of barrier methods, specifically external condom use, has declined among adolescents and young adults. Interventions that increase availability of or accessibility to barrier methods are most efficacious when combined with additional individual, small-group, or community-level activities that include messages about safer sex. Continued research informs public health interventions for adolescents that increase the consistent and correct use of barrier methods and promote dual protection of barrier methods for STI prevention together with other effective methods of contraception.

Long-Acting Reversible Contraception: Specific Issues for Adolescents

Long-acting reversible contraceptives are the most effective methods to prevent pregnancy and also offer noncontraceptive benefits such as reducing menstrual blood flow and dysmenorrhea. The safety and efficacy of long-acting reversible contraception are well established for adolescents, but the rate of use remains low for this population. The pediatrician can play a key role in increasing access to long-acting reversible contraception for adolescents by providing accurate patient-centered contraception counseling and by understanding and addressing the barriers to use.

"The Hopkins Mongol Case": The Dawn of the Bioethics Movement

One of the earliest controversies in the modern history of bioethics was known at the time as "the Hopkins Mongol case," involving an infant with Trisomy 21 and duodenal atresia whose parents declined to consent to surgery. Fluids and feeding were withheld, and the infant died of dehydration after 15 days. The child’s short life had a profound impact on the author’s career and that of several others and ultimately led to changes in the care of children and adults with disabilities and the way difficult end-of-life decisions are made in US hospitals today. It also contributed to the growth of the modern bioethics movement and scholarship focused on pediatric bioethics issues.

Who Is the Next "Baby Doe?" From Trisomy 21 to Trisomy 13 and 18 and Beyond

The "Baby Doe" case of the early 1980s was marked by considerable controversy, primarily regarding the legal response of the federal government to the case at the time. In the decades that followed, the decision-making for children with trisomy 21, like Baby Doe, has been substantially reevaluated. The data, the assumptions about quality of life that were based on those data, and the ethical principles underpinning the decision-making in the Baby Doe case have all evolved significantly over time. The present strategies for decision-making for children with trisomy 13 and 18 appear to be following a similar pattern. The data, quality-of-life assumptions based on those data, and even the ethical principles underlying the decision-making for these children are currently being reexamined. Children with trisomy 13 and 18 are, in this regard, the next Baby Doe(s).

Uncertainty: An Uncomfortable Companion to Decision-making for Infants

Although parents are typically the most appropriate decision-makers for their children, there are limits to this authority. Medical providers may be ethically obligated to seek state intervention against a parental decision if the parent places a child at significant and imminent risk of serious harm. When parents make medical decisions for their children, they assess both the projected benefits and risks of their choices for their family. These assessments are impacted by uncertainty, which is a common feature of neonatal intensive care. The relative presence or absence of uncertainty may impact perceptions of parental decisions and a medical provider’s decision to seek state intervention to overrule parents. In this article, we propose a model integrating prognostic uncertainty into pediatric decision-making that may aid providers in such assessments. We will demonstrate how to apply this model to 3 neonatal cases and propose that the presence of greater uncertainty ought to permit parents greater latitude to incorporate family values into their decision-making even if these decisions are contradictory to the recommendations of the medical team.

Adolescent Brain Development and Medical Decision-making

With a few notable exceptions, adolescents do not possess the legal authority to provide consent for or refuse medical interventions. However, in some situations, the question arises regarding whether a mature minor should be permitted to make a life-altering medical decision that would be challenged if made by the minor’s parent. In this article, I explore what we currently know about the adolescent brain and how that knowledge should frame our understanding of adolescent decision-making. The prevailing approach to determining when adolescents should have their decisions respected in the medical and legal context, an approach that is focused on establishing capacity under a traditional informed consent model, will be reviewed and critiqued. I will suggest that the traditional model is insufficient and explore the implications for the adolescent role in health care decision-making.

When Does A Minors Legal Competence To Make Health Care Decisions Matter?

In this article, I examine the role of minors’ competence for medical decision-making in modern American law. The doctrine of parental consent remains the default legal and bioethical framework for health care decisions on behalf of children, complemented by a complex array of exceptions. Some of those exceptions vest decisional authority in the minors themselves. Yet, in American law, judgments of minors’ competence do not typically trigger shifts in decision-making authority from adults to minors. Rather, minors’ decisional capacity becomes relevant only after legislatures or courts determine that the default of parental discretion does not achieve important policy goals or protect implicated constitutional rights in a particular health care context and that those goals can best be achieved or rights best protected by authorizing capable minors to choose for themselves. It is at that point that psychological and neuroscientific evidence plays an important role in informing the legal inquiry as to whether minors whose health is at issue are legally competent to decide.

Ethical Issues Raised by the Media Portrayal of Adolescent Transplant Refusals

Cases of adolescents in organ failure who refuse solid organ transplant are not common, but several have been discussed in the media in the United States and the United Kingdom. Using the framework developed by Buchanan and Brock for surrogate decision-making, I examine what role the adolescent should morally play when deciding about therapy for life-threatening conditions. I argue that the greater the efficacy of treatment, the less voice the adolescent (and the parent) should have. I then consider how refusals of highly effective transplant cases are similar to and different from refusals of other lifesaving therapies (eg, chemotherapy for leukemia), which is more commonly discussed in the media and medical literature. I examine whether organ scarcity and the need for lifelong immunosuppression justify differences in whether the state intervenes when an adolescent and his or her parents refuse a transplant. I argue that the state, as parens patriae, has an obligation to provide the social supports needed for a successful transplant and follow-up treatment plan, although family refusals may be permissible when the transplant is experimental or of low efficacy because of comorbidities or other factors. I conclude by discussing the need to limit media coverage of pediatric treatment refusals.