Dublin: Teenagers Should Get A Greater Say Over Their Personal Health Matters: Report

25 Jul

 A MAJOR new report has recommended changes to existing legislation to allow 16-17-year-olds to seek or refuse medical treatment including contraception, surgery and mental health services without the need of parental consent.

However, the report by the Law Reform Commission also proposes that minors (children under 16) should not be presumed competent to consent to, or refuse, medical treatment, except in exceptional circumstances. The LRC’s recommendations which would allow 16-17-year-olds to access a range of over-the-counter medicines is likely to prove controversial, particularly among some family and right-wing groups.

Draft legislation proposed by the LRC to implement its recommendations would allow such teenagers to buy a range of products including condoms, skincare treatments and antibiotics, without parental approval.

However, the LRC stressed that the report did not involve a review about a further reduction in the age of majority which was previously lowered from 21 to 18 in 1985. But it does recommend that 16-17-year-olds should be presumed to have full capacity in making decisions about their own health.

The report entitled Report on Children and the Law: Medical Treatment will formally be launched by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald, later today.

It addresses the complex interaction between the rights, responsibilities and roles of parents and their teenage children. It acknowledges that as children mature towards adulthood their capacity to exercise their rights must be recognised.

The LRC said it had taken into account that various legislation already recognised the gradual maturing of teenagers by sometimes setting down definitive age thresholds and sometimes rules based on tests of maturity and understanding.

An LRC spokesman said there had been a significant shift in recent years from a paternalistic approach, whereby decisions about healthcare options and treatment were primarily a matter for medical staff, towards the view that the patients must be centrally involved in any decision about their health.

The LRC said it was conscious that the report was being published at a time when the rights of children are subject to a wide-ranging debate, while the Government has also promised to hold a constitutional amendment to reform children’s rights.

The LRC also recommends that an application should be made to the High Court to decide on the validity of any refusal by person under 18 to consent to life-saving medical treatment.

While the LRC recommends that children under 16 should not be deemed competent to make their own decisions about their healthcare, it does suggest that mature minors should have their views fully taken into account when they seek medical treatment.

www.spunout.ie & www.teenline.ie & www.letsomeoneknow.ie

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