Parents have a right to decide their children’s health care, but they must do what is best for their children. Now, adolescent healthcare rights are in the spotlight once again. A recent paper published in the Journal of Pediatrics took a deep dive into how the healthcare rights of adolescents are unclear. Every patient needs to understand their rights when they go to the doctor, including teenagers. Unfortunately, the healthcare rights of teenagers can vary significantly from state to state, and doctors are asking for a greater degree of clarity.
Adolescents Are at a High Risk for Sensitive Medical Issues
The biggest reason why this is in the spotlight is that teenagers are at high risk for sensitive medical issues. For example, many people lose their virginity during their teenage years. Teenagers need to be given the education and tools necessary to have sex safely if they decide to do so. This includes STD testing, contraception, and pregnancy testing. Unfortunately, the laws regarding what has to be disclosed to the parents and what teenagers can access independently or not apparent from state to state. This can cause teenagers to stay away from the doctor when they need medical care, leading to medical complications.
In addition, there are a lot of teenagers who might experiment with alcohol, drugs, and tobacco products. Therefore, the doctor needs to provide teenagers with the information they need to make the best possible decisions for their healthcare. But, again, some teenagers are nervous that the doctor might be obligated to inform their parents, and teenagers could decide to stay away from the doctor. By providing a greater degree of clarity regarding the rights of teenagers when they go to the doctor, it will be easier to convince teenagers to seek the medical care they need.
What Needs To Be Done?
The reality is that states that restrict the privacy of teenagers when they go to the doctor are placing them in harm’s way. In the medical field, it has been well established that adolescents are more likely to seek the medical care they need if they can keep these issues to themselves. Unfortunately, despite expert consensus, there are a lot of states that still do not allow adolescents to seek the medical care they need without the permission of their parents, and there are other states that require doctors to inform the teen’s parents without consent of the patient. The doctors need to lead the way, not politicians. It will be interesting to see if states decide to modernize their health care legislation to grant more complete privacy rights to teenagers.
Everyone Wants What Is Best for the Patient
Ultimately, the most important thing for people to keep in mind is that everyone wants what is best for the patient. In this case, the patient is a teenager. Even though teenagers will make mistakes from time to time, they are still deserving of appropriate healthcare. Furthermore, teenagers grow and learn quickly. At some point, they will be able to decide what is best for their help. Even though some teenagers are more mature than others, it should be up to the doctor to determine when teenagers can make decisions for themselves and when they need to involve their parents. Ultimately, all of this will play a role in providing teenagers with the healthcare they need.