Doctor/Patient Confidentiality for Minors

Instructor: Geralyn Vilar
Doctor-patient confidentiality is extremely important but rules of confidentiality can change when a minor is the patient. In this lesson, we will learn about confidentiality in the medical care of minors.

Doctor-Patient Confidentiality for Minors

It's the 4th of July and you are hanging out with a few friends who are shooting off fireworks in an open field. Your parents have repeatedly told you not to shoot off fireworks. You have heard this same talk for as long as you can recall and think your parents are exaggerating the harm because, after all, you are 16 and very responsible.

The sights, sounds and smells are inviting and you light your first firework. After several harmless explosions, you light a bottle rocket that goes off prematurely. As you jump back, you realize that your hand has a burn.

Your friends bring you to an urgent care clinic. You wonder if the doctor will have to contact your parents or if he can keep this information confidential. This is where doctor-patient confidentiality comes in.

Doctor-patient confidentiality is an ethical guideline on what information a doctor can share about a patient. When it comes to minors, this can get confusing.

Although one must reach the age of majority to be considered an adult with full authority to make decisions, this rule does not apply in certain medical situations. For example, a minor who is pregnant or thinks she may be pregnant is treated as an adult. The minor does not need parental consent for testing or treatment. Furthermore, the doctors and medical facilities involved should not discuss her medical condition with her parents. This minor is protected under the laws of doctor-patient confidentiality.

Am I Still a Minor?

A minor is considered an adult at the age of majority or at emancipation. If you have not reached the age of majority or been emancipated, you are a minor. In most states, the age of majority is eighteen. Some states set the age of majority at nineteen. Regardless of age, some states consider the age of majority to occur upon graduation from high school.

Emancipation occurs when an individual reaches the age of majority, legally weds, enlists in the military or has a child. Express emancipation occurs when both parent and child agree that the child can leave home and care for him or herself. When you are no longer a minor, any and all contracts, deeds and legal relationships you enter into are binding.

Rules For Doctor-Patient Confidentiality For Minors

When dealing with confidentiality and minors, doctors need to walk a fine line. The law states that when a minor is mature and can be examined without a parent present, he/she should be encouraged to take part in the decision making process. Depending on age and circumstances, a doctor can and perhaps should encourage parental involvement. However, the doctor should not force parental involvement.

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