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The Rights of Minors or Their Parents to Consent to Medical Care

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The Rights of Minors or their Parents to Consent to Medical Care
Vanessa Lecoin
University of Phoenix
February 27, 2012

It is understood that under the age of 18 minors are considered to have their parents be legally responsible in all aspect of their lives including decision-making. The responsibility of the parents are to feed, clothe, financially support, shelter their children and in this case make medical decisions and sign consent to either participate or not participate in medical treatment. It is debatable on when the minors can at least participate in the decision-making process of their health care needs versus the parents pursuing to disregard their children’s feelings and make decisions despite their children’s concerns or wishes. The question is can minors be responsible in making decisions for themselves when it comes to his or her health care needs? The answer is yes, only if they are legally able to make that decision for his or herself ir if they are above the age of 18.

Many minors may appear to have the knowledge and understanding to make their own decisions such as whether or not to engage in sexual activities, to drink or not drink alcoholic beverages, to smoke cigarettes, or other illegal substances. The decisions gets more in-depth when taking into consideration what types of birth control to use such as the pill and other forms of birth control contraceptives to used as precautions to lessen chances of potential pregnancies and condoms to prevent sexual transmitted diseases (Boostra, 2000). Minors currently make their own decisions already on a daily basis. However, their parents still have a legal right to make the final decision on what her or she can or cannot do as the minor’s legal guardians.

The issue is that many minors would be ambivalent to seek medical care for health issues concerning minors such as contracting sexual transmitted diseases or pregnancy or issues with substance abuse. It appears that these minors would not seek care for these issues because he or she does not want to disclose his or her personal information with this or her parents to gain approval for consent (Boostra, 2000). The federal court has established a legal plan called Title X family planning program to allow minors sexually active and engaging certain lifestyle activities that require routine checkups without his or her parental guardians to give consent. Allowing the minors to have this type of control of their health concerns; will allow the minors to make possibly better choices on their own without the fear of making bad choices because he or she wants to avoid telling his or her parents (Boostra, 2000). Some families will most likely disagree with the Title X family planning program because they believe that his or her child would not be capable of making adult decisions, although the minors are practicing adult acts. Parents believe that they have a right to monitor and have access to their minor’s medical files and speak to the medical professional caring for their child, while their minors have limited access to their own information, and limited access to sharing opinions with the medical professional, if at all (Kuther, 2003). Under the Title X family planning program, the minors are entitle to informed consent and do not need the consent of their parents under this program. There is a thin line between the minors developing full knowledge of how or what decisions they can make and leaving all the decision making to their parents. The true concern is, the decisions are based on the minors well-being and he or she should have a right to have an opinion and be able to give consent for his or her health is concerned.

In some states a minor can make his or her decisions when they have been legally emancipated or are in a legal marriage. Emancipation is where minors are living their lives legally and independently separate from their parents or legal guardian. Emancipated minor have a right to consent or refuse medical care because they are legally able to as an emancipated adult. The stipulation to apply for emancipation varies by state although most of the states recognize the following situations to be considered an emancipated minor such as: marriage, military service, and have had who consented to surrender their rights and responsibilities, the minor is a parent him or herself, judicial order, and financial independence (Kuther, 2003). Emancipated minors are those who live independently of their parents. Emancipated minors may consent to medical care, and refuse it, as if they were adults. If the minors fall outside of those guidelines, they have to be under the guidance and judgment of their legal guardian or parents until they are 18 in most states. Most minors under the age of 18 are often considered incompetent that is not always true because there are many minors under that age that are mature enough to make serious choices compared to many immature 18-year-olds (Kuther, 2003).

Most states recognize any person under the age of 18 to be minors and those above the age of18 are considered adults. All decisions for the minors are solely the responsibility of his or her parents or guardians. Despite the strict guidelines of differentiating between when a minor is considered an adult, many parents, and guardians due take into consideration what the minor may want to do as far as their medical care. Sometimes when there is a battle between what the minor wants and what the parents or guardians want the law may have to step in if the minor wants to take legal action against his or her parents or guardians wishes. The minors may proceed with filing a legal claim to have the courts evaluate his or her case and can file a petition to be legally emancipated to make his or her own decisions if they qualify for the emancipation requirements.

Over the course of about 30 years or so some states have passed laws to allow minors to make decisions and seek medical care without his or her parent or guardians consent. In situations like health care related issues, like sexual activity concerns, substance abuse, and mental health care needs that the minor would otherwise not seek care for if he or she had to involve his or her parents. The doctors involved in the minors care may still have the right to inform the parents or guardians of the care and treatments that his or her son or daughter is seeking and for what reasons if the situation merits the parent or guardians concern (Boostra, 2000).

The Supreme Court made a ruling to allow the minors to make decisions about contraceptives and abortion to terminate unwanted pregnancies because these minors would not otherwise seek care for these situations if this or her parents were involved (Boostra, 2000). While there are more minors engaging in adult activities it is understood that many of the minors are physically adapting to adulthood however lack the maturity to handle the decisions that are associated with the activities he or she is participating on. This is why the courts took into consideration that these minors at some point have enough control to discuss whether or not to seek care about his or her on decisions of what to do with their health and bodies without involving his or her parents or guardians.

It is not an easy task to differentiate between who should make decisions for minors; whether it be solely at the minors parents or guardians discretion, or solely by the discretion of the minor or lastly, by the collaboration between both the minor and his or her guardians. One thing is clear in most of the United States any person under the age of 18 are minors and are in need of his or her parents or guardians consent for any decisions concerning his or her son or daughter. The only stipulation that is an exception to this rule is if the minor is an emancipated minor who legally obtained that right and can think and make decisions on his or her merit. It is advisable that although the parents do have the legal authority to make decisions and consent or chose not to consent to some medical activities for his or her son or daughter, it would be a nice gesture to include his or her son or daughter in the decision making process, and they can discuss together what is best for the minor and what the parent feels comfortable in consenting to, together.


Boonstra, H., & Nash, E. (2000, August). Minors and the Right to Consent to Health Care. In Guttmacher Institute. Retrieved February 23, 2012, from

Kuther, T. L. (2003). Medical decision-making and minors: issues of consent and assent. In Questia. Retrieved February 23, 2012, from

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