Arch Dis Child 96:960-962 doi:10.1136/adc.2011.211342
  • Original articles

Assent for children's participation in research is incoherent and wrong

Open Access
  1. Paul Baines
  1. Centre for Professional Ethics, Keele University, Staffordshire, UK
  1. Correspondence toDr Paul Baines, Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, Alder Hey Children's Hospital, Eaton Road, Liverpool L12 2AP, UK; pbb{at}
  • Accepted 28 April 2011
  • Published Online First 19 July 2011


When children are considered for participation in research, British and international guidelines suggest that they should provide assent in addition to their parents' consent. However, examination of these guidelines shows there is confusion regarding the concept of assent. Furthermore, the need for assent may cause problems. The guidelines should be revised: the parents of incompetent children should consent for them and competent children should consent on their own behalf.


  • Funding PB is funded by the Wellcome Trust (Grant 087470).

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

This paper is freely available online under the BMJ Journals unlocked scheme, see

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