Do you need your parents' permission to see a doctor?

The Infants Act in British Columbia says that children (anyone under 19 years of age) can consent (agree) to their own medical care — if they're capable.

When are children "capable"? The law considers children to be capable if they understand:

  • the need for medical treatment
  • what the treatment involves
  • the benefits and risks of getting the treatment
  • the benefits and risks of not getting the treatment

If the doctor or other health care provider explains these things and decides that the child understands them, the care provider can treat the child without permission from the parents or guardians. The child may have to sign a consent form.

There's no set age when a child becomes "capable." Doctors must use their best judgment in each case to decide if the child is capable. It depends on how mature the child is and how serious the medical treatment is.

Children who are capable can normally get medical treatment without their parents' or guardian's consent for things like birth control, abortion, mental health problems, sexually transmitted diseases, or alcohol and drug addiction.

A doctor or health care provider can't talk to the parents or guardian about a capable child's medical care unless the child agrees.

Just as doctors must keep information about their adult patients confidential, they must also keep information about their child patients confidential, but there are some limits to this rule. Some doctors insist on telling a child's parent or guardian if they treat the child. If you're a child and you want your doctor to keep your medical information confidential, it's important to tell them that.

More information

The Justice Education Society’s website Legal Rights for Youth has information on how the law applies to youth, including medical rights. Other topics include age-based legal rights, family break-up, work, driving, mental health, abuse and sexual assault, crime, and online safety.

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