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One of the more complex issues facing policymakers is establishing rules on minors' consent for medical care. A parent's right to make health care choices for a minor child seems fair and reasonable.

Despite this, the right of young people to access medical services in confidentiality may be more important than parents being informed about their child's medical condition. A parent's involvement may prevent a minor from seeking help, whether they are sexually active, pregnant, infected with an STD, or have mental or emotional problems.

As a result, many states explicitly allow minors to make their own medical decisions, but the balance between parents' and minors' rights remains a controversial issue.

There may be instances when treatment is provided without consent, such as in an emergency. Several states have passed laws regarding child medical consent, including emergency medical situations. Treatment under this exception is only offered in the presence of immediate and probable harm.

Court-ordered emancipation

The court may grant emancipation to a child under 18 who lives independently and makes their own day-to-day decisions without parental support. Once approved, the minor will have adult rights, including the ability to consent (and refuse) medical care. The patient's record should include a copy of the emancipation decree if they inform you that they are emancipated.

Situational emancipation

A minor who is married, a parent, attends college away from home, is a military member, or has been a parent may be able to consent to treatment on their behalf in some states. Minors may also agree to treatment if their parents or guardians are not readily available, and a delay in treatment could harm them.

Type of treatment

Treatments for substance abuse, mental health issues, and birth control are often available to minors. This right is granted to minors as young as 12 in several states, including Vermont and California.

It is important to remember that, while minors may meet the legal requirements for consenting to treatment, psychiatrists must still ensure that they possess the maturity and capacity to understand the treatment for which they are consenting.

Because these laws vary across states, psychiatrists need to familiarize themselves with the laws that govern their state. Document the circumstances under which the minor child is permitted to consent to treatment.

Can Minors Refuse Medical Treatment?

The American Medical Association considers informed consent a fundamental ethical and legal right. Despite this, teenagers might be denied their rights and forced into treatment without consent.

However, in the mature minor doctrine, young people are given medical autonomy. According to the doctrine, if a minor shows sufficient maturity and understanding of their condition, they may refuse or consent to treatment without the consent of their parents.

Smith vs. Seibly (Washington Supreme Court, 1967) gave rise to the concept of a mature minor doctrine. When considering whether unemancipated individuals may consent to surgery, the court determined that physicians should consider the following factors:

  • Age
  • Intelligence
  • Maturity
  • Training
  • Experience
  • Level of economic independence
  • Adult behavior and freedom from parental control

Furthermore, the court cited Grannum vs. Berard (Washington Supreme Court, 1967). It held that the mental capacity to consent to surgery should be determined based on the particular circumstances of the teenager.

By doing so, a precedent was established for separating similar-aged people.

Below, you will find each state's reference information when providing minors with clinical care.

State Routine Health Medical Care Infectious Disease
Alabama 14 years or older Any minor
Alaska A minor living independently from their parents and managing their finances N/A
Arizona Emancipated, married, or homeless N/A
Arkansas Any unemancipated minor of sufficient Intelligence. McKinney-Vento homeless liaison for unaccompanied homeless youth. N/A
California 15 years or older 12 years or older
Colorado 14 years or older N/A
Connecticut Emergency case, emancipated or married N/A
Delaware An individual serving as temporary custodian of a minor 12 years or over
District Of Columbia 11 or older N/A
Florida 16 and older N/A
Georgia Emancipated or married N/A
Hawaii 14 years N/A
Idaho Anyone who understands the risks of health treatments 14 years of age or older
Iowa 16 or older and emancipated, married, or incarcerated Parents do not need to consent to some health care services for minors
Illinois 14 years N/A
Indiana 14 years N/A
Kansas 16 years or over N/A
Kentucky A parent, emancipated or married
Louisiana Any minor who believes themselves to be afflicted with an illness or disease N/A
Maine A minor lives separately from parents or legal guardians and is independent of parental support. N/A
Maryland Any minor living separate and apart from a parent, parents, or guardian and is self–supporting N/A
Massachusetts Self-supporting minors living separately from parents, parents, or guardians Any minor suffering from any disease is defined as dangerous
Michigan Being emancipated, living alone, married, pregnant, or a parent
Minnesota Self-supporting minors living separately from parents, parents, or guardians N/A
Mississippi Married or emancipated N/A
Missouri 16 or 17 years of age N/A
Montana Self-supporting minors living separately from parents, parents, or guardians Minors who professes or is found to be pregnant or afflicted with any reportable communicable disease
Nebraska Married or emancipated minor Minors may consent
Nevada Self-supporting minors living separately from parents, parents, or guardians for at least four months. N/A
New Hampshire Emergency care 14 years but notify minor's

parent of positive

HIV status

New Jersey Married or pregnant 13 years or older
New Mexico 14 years or older N/A
New York Parent, married, or in an emergency Parent, married, or in an emergency
North Carolina Married, or 16 or older and emancipated, or for emergency care Consent from a parent or legal guardian for under 18 years
North Dakota 14 years or older N/A
Ohio No explicit policy Minors may consent
Oklahoma Self-supporting minors living separately from parents, parents, or guardians Any minor who is or has been pregnant
Oregon 15 years or older 15-17 years
Pennsylvania Minors of any age whose consent would result in a delay Under 21 years of age
Rhode Island 16 and over or married Under 18 years
South Carolina Minors of any age N/A
South Dakota Married or emancipated minor Minors may consent
Tennessee 16 y or older Minors may consent
Texas 16 years of age or older A child may consent
Utah 15 years or older Minors may consent
Vermont Emancipated or married 12 years old may consent
Virginia A minor shall be deemed for birth control, pregnancy, or family planning except for sexual sterilization; A minor shall be deemed to determine the presence of or to treat venereal disease
Washington A school nurse, counselor, or homeless student liaison N/A
West Virginia Consent rights are supported by judicial opinion for minors with capacity No explicit policy
Wisconsin No explicit policy Minors may consent
Wyoming A minor living separate and apart from a parent, parents, or guardian and is self–supporting N/A

This table shows why it is important to look at the laws in your state before allowing a minor to make medical decisions on their own. In other cases where the child cannot decide, you may need a child medical consent form to give someone else permission to make these decisions.

Read more:Why You Should Prepare a Medical Consent Form for Your Children

Start your Child Medical Consent Form

Helpful Resources:

Emancipation of minors - Cornell Law -

Grannum v. Berard: 1967: Washington Supreme Court Decisions

Smith v. Seibly: 1967: Washington Supreme Court Decisions

The Mature Minor Rule- King County

One of the more complex issues facing policymakers is establishing rules on minors' consent for medical care. A parent's right to make health care choices for a minor child seems fair and reasonable.

Despite this, the right of young people to access medical services in confidentiality may be more important than parents being informed about their child's medical condition. A parent's involvement may prevent a minor from seeking help, whether they are sexually active, pregnant, infected with an STD, or have mental or emotional problems.

As a result, many states explicitly allow minors to make their own medical decisions, but the balance between parents' and minors' rights remains a controversial issue.

There may be instances when treatment is provided without consent, such as in an emergency. Several states have passed laws regarding child medical consent, including emergency medical situations. Treatment under this exception is only offered in the presence of immediate and probable harm.

Court-ordered emancipation

The court may grant emancipation to a child under 18 who lives independently and makes their own day-to-day decisions without parental support. Once approved, the minor will have adult rights, including the ability to consent (and refuse) medical care. The patient's record should include a copy of the emancipation decree if they inform you that they are emancipated.

Situational emancipation

A minor who is married, a parent, attends college away from home, is a military member, or has been a parent may be able to consent to treatment on their behalf in some states. Minors may also agree to treatment if their parents or guardians are not readily available, and a delay in treatment could harm them.

Type of treatment

Treatments for substance abuse, mental health issues, and birth control are often available to minors. This right is granted to minors as young as 12 in several states, including Vermont and California.

It is important to remember that, while minors may meet the legal requirements for consenting to treatment, psychiatrists must still ensure that they possess the maturity and capacity to understand the treatment for which they are consenting.

Because these laws vary across states, psychiatrists need to familiarize themselves with the laws that govern their state. Document the circumstances under which the minor child is permitted to consent to treatment.

Can Minors Refuse Medical Treatment?

The American Medical Association considers informed consent a fundamental ethical and legal right. Despite this, teenagers might be denied their rights and forced into treatment without consent.

However, in the mature minor doctrine, young people are given medical autonomy. According to the doctrine, if a minor shows sufficient maturity and understanding of their condition, they may refuse or consent to treatment without the consent of their parents.

Smith vs. Seibly (Washington Supreme Court, 1967) gave rise to the concept of a mature minor doctrine. When considering whether unemancipated individuals may consent to surgery, the court determined that physicians should consider the following factors:

  • Age
  • Intelligence
  • Maturity
  • Training
  • Experience
  • Level of economic independence
  • Adult behavior and freedom from parental control

Furthermore, the court cited Grannum vs. Berard (Washington Supreme Court, 1967). It held that the mental capacity to consent to surgery should be determined based on the particular circumstances of the teenager.

By doing so, a precedent was established for separating similar-aged people.

Below, you will find each state's reference information when providing minors with clinical care.

State Routine Health Medical Care Infectious Disease
Alabama 14 years or older Any minor
Alaska A minor living independently from their parents and managing their finances N/A
Arizona Emancipated, married, or homeless N/A
Arkansas Any unemancipated minor of sufficient Intelligence. McKinney-Vento homeless liaison for unaccompanied homeless youth. N/A
California 15 years or older 12 years or older
Colorado 14 years or older N/A
Connecticut Emergency case, emancipated or married N/A
Delaware An individual serving as temporary custodian of a minor 12 years or over
District Of Columbia 11 or older N/A
Florida 16 and older N/A
Georgia Emancipated or married N/A
Hawaii 14 years N/A
Idaho Anyone who understands the risks of health treatments 14 years of age or older
Iowa 16 or older and emancipated, married, or incarcerated Parents do not need to consent to some health care services for minors
Illinois 14 years N/A
Indiana 14 years N/A
Kansas 16 years or over N/A
Kentucky A parent, emancipated or married
Louisiana Any minor who believes themselves to be afflicted with an illness or disease N/A
Maine A minor lives separately from parents or legal guardians and is independent of parental support. N/A
Maryland Any minor living separate and apart from a parent, parents, or guardian and is self–supporting N/A
Massachusetts Self-supporting minors living separately from parents, parents, or guardians Any minor suffering from any disease is defined as dangerous
Michigan Being emancipated, living alone, married, pregnant, or a parent
Minnesota Self-supporting minors living separately from parents, parents, or guardians N/A
Mississippi Married or emancipated N/A
Missouri 16 or 17 years of age N/A
Montana Self-supporting minors living separately from parents, parents, or guardians Minors who professes or is found to be pregnant or afflicted with any reportable communicable disease
Nebraska Married or emancipated minor Minors may consent
Nevada Self-supporting minors living separately from parents, parents, or guardians for at least four months. N/A
New Hampshire Emergency care 14 years but notify minor's

parent of positive

HIV status

New Jersey Married or pregnant 13 years or older
New Mexico 14 years or older N/A
New York Parent, married, or in an emergency Parent, married, or in an emergency
North Carolina Married, or 16 or older and emancipated, or for emergency care Consent from a parent or legal guardian for under 18 years
North Dakota 14 years or older N/A
Ohio No explicit policy Minors may consent
Oklahoma Self-supporting minors living separately from parents, parents, or guardians Any minor who is or has been pregnant
Oregon 15 years or older 15-17 years
Pennsylvania Minors of any age whose consent would result in a delay Under 21 years of age
Rhode Island 16 and over or married Under 18 years
South Carolina Minors of any age N/A
South Dakota Married or emancipated minor Minors may consent
Tennessee 16 y or older Minors may consent
Texas 16 years of age or older A child may consent
Utah 15 years or older Minors may consent
Vermont Emancipated or married 12 years old may consent
Virginia A minor shall be deemed for birth control, pregnancy, or family planning except for sexual sterilization; A minor shall be deemed to determine the presence of or to treat venereal disease
Washington A school nurse, counselor, or homeless student liaison N/A
West Virginia Consent rights are supported by judicial opinion for minors with capacity No explicit policy
Wisconsin No explicit policy Minors may consent
Wyoming A minor living separate and apart from a parent, parents, or guardian and is self–supporting N/A

This table shows why it is important to look at the laws in your state before allowing a minor to make medical decisions on their own. In other cases where the child cannot decide, you may need a child medical consent form to give someone else permission to make these decisions.

Read more:Why You Should Prepare a Medical Consent Form for Your Children

Start your Child Medical Consent Form

Helpful Resources:

Emancipation of minors - Cornell Law -

Grannum v. Berard: 1967: Washington Supreme Court Decisions

Smith v. Seibly: 1967: Washington Supreme Court Decisions

The Mature Minor Rule- King County