Access to good parenting, food, housing, and sanitation is the primary method for enhancing children's well-being and opportunities. The consensus that children also should have basic healthcare and social services grew throughout the twentieth century. Initially, advocates for better health and social care for impoverished, neglected, abused, and exploited children included those active in the women's rights movement, the newly recognized specialty of pediatrics, and the visiting home-health nursing programs. As the century progressed, lawyers and social scientists joined the reform movement, attacking the long-dominant views that children are the property of their parents or guardians and that the state has no authority to intervene even if children are abused or neglected.
Children gained rights to certain medical services and the right to be protected from abuse, poverty, neglect, and exploitation; adolescents gained liberties such as the right to consent to some kinds of treatments or services without parental approval or notification (Holder, 1985, 1989). Scientists helped transform children's programs through studies of children's growth, development, needs, experiences, illnesses, and perspectives, showing the importance of candor and respect for children's views. A distinctive feature of advocacy for improved health and social care for children can be summarized as follows: Others make most decisions for minors in terms of their personal care and the allocation of funds for children's programs.
Moral disputes about healthcare for children will be discussed under four headings: Who should make decisions for children? How should those decisions be made? When should children be enrolled as research subjects? How much of society's healthcare funds should be allocated to children's programs?
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