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


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.

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

  • Competing interests None.

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

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