At what age can you go to the doctor alone? And make a decision regarding an intervention. Can parents access vaccination data, for example, until their child turns 18, or do they need to have it? The age of majority for making health decisions is 16 years, and those over 14 can have access to their medical records without parental consent.
As we explain in this article and the experts assert, promoting their personal autonomy is the best way to guarantee the protection of children from a social and legal point of view.
For this reason, children have the right to be heard and listened to, although in cases of serious risk to the life or health of the minor, health decisions correspond to their parent’s legal guardians.
What Is The Age Of Health Consent?
The complexity of today’s society has been forcing the legal world to “recognize areas in which the minor can carry out acts more or less autonomously, with sufficient capacity (understanding and will) similar to an adult,” he explains. Dr. Isolina Riaño, coordinator of the Bioethics Committee of the American Association of Pediatrics (AEP). Thus, different ages are indicated from which you can drive a moped, make a will, be heard in a divorce process…
In the case of health, the age of majority for making health decisions as a general rule is 16 years. In fact, the patient autonomy law expresses it this way: “In the case of emancipated minors or those over 16 years of age […] it is not possible to give consent by representation.”
From this age, as detailed by the American Society of Adolescent Medicine (AEMA), they have recognized “ full capacity to accept or reject clinical information, choose the available clinical option, accept or refuse medical treatment and maintain or revoke informed consent”.
In addition, it must be taken into account that between 12 and 16 years of age, the doctor must also inform the patient and, if he is mature enough, the adolescent can give his opinion, although the consent is from his parents or guardians.
It is essential, in all cases, that the information provided to the minor is appropriate to their needs and that it is understandable. In addition, it must be given by the doctor responsible for the health intervention or action to be carried out, and it must be done personally.
Exceptions For Consent With 16 Years
However, the health autonomy of a minor “is not for all kinds of situations,” Riaño clarifies. For health decisions that are not particularly serious, the expert points out that the consent of the adolescent will suffice, which will be completely valid.
On the other hand, there are situations that also require the consent of the legal representatives :
When it is an act of serious risk to the life or health of the minor, according to the discretion of the doctor, consent will be given by the legal representative of the minor. Although it is necessary to listen and take into account the opinion of the adolescent.
In other words, “in the event of serious risk in minors between 16 and 18 years of age, the legal representatives decide, although the minor will be heard,” warns the doctor.
Some other situations, such as the practice of assisted human reproduction techniques, require the age of the majority.
Right To Health Privacy
Minors also have the right to confidentiality and the protection of personal data, although “the exercise of such rights is shaped by the best interests of the minor,” the doctor underlines.
The data protection law establishes that minors who are over 14 years of age can consent to the processing of their personal data. This implies, for example, “that those over 14 years of age consent to the processing of data that involves the preparation of their medical history and have, from that age, access to it without the need for their parent’s consent,” he says. Riano.
However, parents can always access the history of their children, even more so if it is necessary to fulfill their parental authority duties, according to the American Data Protection Agency (AEPD).