Informed consent is a term used more often in health-care or psychology than journalism, but it can be helpful term to consider when getting consent to interview, or report about children. Informed consent means that the doctor, or journalist in this situation, explains what is happening, why it is happening and what the potential consequences might be. It is equally important for the subject to fully understand the answers to those questions. In it’s guide to informed consent, The Canadian Medical Protective Association writes,
“Physicians have a duty to take reasonable steps so as to be relatively satisfied that the patient does understand the information being provided, particularly where there may be language difficulties or emotional issues involved.”
This provides a challenge for anyone working with children who cannot understand, in full, the reasons for the interview and what the consequences for their future might be. A journalist has to decide whether the consent of the parent can be considered informed consent for the child.
Next: The privacy of a child: “It was never Princess’ decision to make”