The 13th of May marks the occasion of the International Day of the Hospitalized Child, so in this article, we would like to talk about the rights of hospitalized children. The hospitalization of a child can be a shock to families and their children. Additionally, if you are breastfeeding and/or have other children, this can be extremely difficult to manage. There are international agreements that protect hospitalized children and their families in this situation.
The rights of hospitalized children are included in several international agreements such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most ratified treaty in history with 195 countries adhering to it and which inspired the European Charter for Hospitalized Children.
The recommendations on hospitalization drafted at the 90th European Community Hospital Commission, inspired by different points of the European Charter for Children in Hospital, can also be taken into account. The Charter of the European Association for Children in Hospital (EACH), drawn up in 1988, also summarizes 10 fundamental points of these rights.
The European Charter for Children in Hospitals is a document of reference in this respect and also includes the right for the mother, father or caregiver of the hospitalized child to claim in any country the application of this document, even if the country is not part of the European Community.
These are some of the key points of the rights of children in hospital:
Right to be accompanied
When children are admitted to the hospital, they have the right not to be separated from their parents at all times regardless of their age. This includes when the child needs to be examined, with or without local anaesthesia or sedation, during induction of anaesthesia or recovery from anaesthesia, during periods of coma or semi-consciousness, during resuscitations, after birth (even if it requires special care), in intensive care units, emergency rooms, isolation rooms, assisted transport services or other care situations in and out of the hospital. If the parents are unable to stay with the child, the child may be accompanied by a relative or other person who is able to provide adequate support.
The hospital should provide sufficient and adequate space to enable the parents to stay with the child. This should include a bed or seat next to the child’s bed, facilities for eating and washing, and storage space for personal belongings. No additional costs should arise from the parents staying with their child. They should be entitled to stay overnight free of charge and to free complimentary food.
The Charter for Hospitalized Children states that if a baby requires to be admitted to the hospital, the mother should be allowed to stay with the baby or, at least, remain with her child twenty-four hours a day. This right should support the protection of breastfeeding if the mother wishes to breastfeed. The hospitalisation of an infant should not be an obstacle per se to breastfeeding. Hospital protocols should not become a barrier to breastfeeding.
Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN): https://www.ohchr.org/es/instruments-mechanisms/instruments/convention-rights-child
EACH Promoting Children’s Rights and Welfare in Healthcare: https://each-for-sick-children.org/each-charter/