Using the concept of ‘parental responsibilities and rights’ to identify adults able to provide proxy consent to child research in South Africa

Ann Elaine Strode, Catherine May Slack


There are circumstances where independent consent to research by children is appropriate (for example, where the participants are older adolescents and the research approximates minimal risk). However, in many instances an important safeguard will be a dual consenting process involving an appropriate adult alongside the potential child participant (according to their evolving capacities). But what adults are appropriate in what instances? We attempt to use principles set out in the Children’s Act (2010) to address this question. This article differentiates between those adults who according to the Children’s Act (2010) have full parental responsibilities and rights (i.e. parents/guardians) and those who have no parental responsibilities and rights (i.e. caregivers). We argue that some responsibilities accorded to caregivers are substantially similar to the authority to provide proxy consent to research in which the research risks approximate those risks present in the child’s everyday life. In these instances, we argue that where parents and guardians are not available, caregivers should be considered by research ethics committees as a possible source of proxy consent for younger children. This approach might not be logically extended to caregiver consent for clinical trial enrolment, for which alternative arguments may need to be debated.

Authors' affiliations

Ann Elaine Strode, Faculty of Law, University of KwaZulu Natal

Catherine May Slack, HIV/AIDS Vaccines Ethics Group

Full Text



Children, guardianship, parental responsibilities and rights, consent

Cite this article

South African Journal of Bioethics and Law 2011;4(2):69.

Article History

Date submitted: 2011-07-19
Date published: 2011-12-15

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