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A screenshot from Margaret Sullivan's NYT blog. (Credit: NYT, screenshot)

New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan looked into the ethics of reporting on and identifying minor-aged children with medical conditions in a recent blog post.

Responding to a reader complaint about “photographs of two autistic children who have a tumor-causing gene,” Sullivan argued that the photos were OK given the parents’ intentions and consent.

But “Is there an ethical consideration about the children’s rights, separate from the parents’ decision-making power?” Sullivan wondered.

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Sullivan reported that Times photography editor Michele McNally said that since “the parents are totally supportive” of identifying their children as autistic, “it is their right.”  McNally added that the parents are publicizing the condition given their interest in getting “the research examined.”  Further, McNally noted that the children “may never be able to consent” given their medical condition so it ultimately is in the hands of parents.

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