One big misconception I had about the health care system up until my senior year of high school was that my parents had full control over my medical care. Being someone who prefers to make medical decisions with her parents, this was fine with me at the time. However, I know that there are many teens who would prefer to have more freedom and control over their healthcare, and it is important to educate teens about the rights they have.
When individuals are under the age of eighteen and live with a parent, the parent must give consent for many types of care. However, most teens don’t know that they have rights too. These usually aren’t discussed in health classes at school, so it’s important for teens to learn about these rights early on so they can use these resources to their benefit. Although laws may vary state to state, most of them are pretty standard and should apply wherever you’re from. There are no federal regulations that specify a teen’s rights regarding medical care, so you should look up your state medical board’s regulations to learn the specifics.
Here are some common rights that minor teens have in many states:
Mental Health. In many states, individuals above the age of twelve or thirteen can consent to receive outpatient mental health services, if approved by their health care provider. In some cases, notice must be provided to the parent, but a teen is allowed to provide consent for themselves.
Substance Abuse. Some states allow teens over a certain age to receive outpatient substance abuse treatment services by a licensed provider. Many inpatient options require parental consent. So, if you are considering receiving this type of service, definitely look into your state’s guidelines to learn more.
Sexual/Reproductive Health. In many states, regardless of age, birth control, family planning, and pregnancy care can be administered to a patient without parental consent or informing a parent that their child is undergoing such care. Testing and providing diagnoses and treatments for STDs and STIs are also allowed in some states if the teen if over a specific age. Additionally, abortion services are available in some states for individuals and do not require parental consent. This link includes a list of some states and their specific abortion laws. If your state isn’t on this list, go to its medical board website to find the exact rules and regulations.
If your provider isn’t providing the reproductive or sexual health care that you are looking for without parental consent, and you would like to consent for yourself, organizations such as Planned Parenthood may be able to help you. Exact laws will vary depending on the state you live in, so you should do some research and look into these rules if you are interested.
Now, you know your rights!
These are just a few of the most common rights minor teens have in most states when it comes to their medical care. Always do additional research and ask around to learn about all the rights and resources available to you in your specific state. Teens have power, and although it may not seem like very much depending on where you live, you should always stay educated so you can exercise your rights in medical situations that may come your way.