What about the tiny humans?


This one is from the heart. Children are the most disadvantaged group of humans on the planet. But who could do bad things to these beautiful people? They are the most trusting, un-corrupted, selfless and caring humans in this world, and that’s why I love them.


I think I was about 5 years old when I decided that I want to work with children “one day when I was big” and that desire has only increased over the years. Studying physiotherapy has given me an amazing tool to work with children. It really gets to me seeing a child being disadvantaged in some way, whether it be a form of abuse, malnutrition, forced labor, or any of the many other ways children are taken advantage of. And that is the reason for this post.

While working as a student physiotherapist I have come across many ethical and moral dilemmas involving tiny humans and I was never sure of how to deal with them, especially because I would get so emotionally upset about things. I didn’t want my emotional state to get in the way of  making rational decisions, but the problem is that a lot of people get emotional when children are involved, parents, medical professionals and the children themselves.

The Dilemma

Children are the lucky group of people that do not have to make their own medical decisions. Wouldn’t that be nice? To rely on somebody else more capable to make the right decisions for you that ensure you are taken care of.. I think most people would want that. Unfortunately some children aren’t so lucky, because sometimes you’re left with a parent who doesn’t know anything about making decisions or what is best for their child, or maybe they simply couldn’t care less.

As a medical professional, I have the child’s best interest at heart and it is my job to assist the parent make the right decisions regarding their child’s care. But it becomes a problem when a parent refuses treatment for their child, treatment that could potentially change their life drastically for the better. And it gets worse when the child asks their parents for the treatment but the parent refuses.

I can understand somebody refusing treatment for themselves but I cannot understand somebody refusing treatment for somebody relying on them to listen to what they want or need.

The ethical dilemma is I could either abide by the constitution and respect the parents right to decide their child’s care, or I could go against the parent’s wishes and put the child’s wishes/interests first.

Further thoughts

Children are not only the most abused but also the most protected humans on the planet, especially in South Africa. They have their own special bill of rights reserved just for them. One of the most striking of these was this:

A child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child.

Wouldn’t that be amazing? If everybody,parents and medical professionals alike, put the child’s best interests at the top of their lists the world would be a better place.

On the other hand, being a parent is incredibly stressful and sometimes making the ‘best’ decision becomes nearly impossible when incredibly complex situations arise. It’s never easy to deal with a child being sick or injured. And sometimes there are other serious things to consider, like the financial or social situation. Other times we don’t spend enough time to educate and inform the parent about the child’s condition, and that’s completely our fault.


I think the most important thing to do would be to ensure we take time to educate the parent and the child appropriately so they are both on the same page. It is also important to empower the parent and let the parent feel free and not judged.

It is never right to go against a parent’s wishes, all we can really do is to be an advocate for children and educate their parents, and to ensure they feel free and safe and not judged. Working together we can change tiny humans’ lives one at a time.

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One thought on “What about the tiny humans?

  1. Hi Kristen. First of all, I just want to say that I like how you’ve used images, quotes and headings to lay out your post. It creates a visual interest that makes me want to read your work.

    In your example about a child asking for a treatment and the parent refusing, it would be good if you could have used an example of something you experience, or even just used an example to clarify the situation. It would have helped to get your point across. In your next paragraph you talk about going against the parent’s wishes and doing what is best for the child, but without an example, it’s hard to see how you could do this, because legally the parents are the guardians of the child and you wouldn’t have a say. Unless of course, the parents were not fit to make decisions for the child, but even then it would be a court who made the decisions, not you. An example of the specific situation you’re thinking of would help to clarify what you mean here.

    You could also have explored some of the reasons why it might be difficult for parents to care for their children. Note that this is not the same as condoning unacceptable behaviour, only that you would be trying to understand the reasoning behind parent’s decisions.

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