According to the American Medical Association, the right to informed consent to medical treatment is considered to be fundamental both ethically and by law. However, young people are usually denied this right, and are forced into treatment without consent, or prevented from obtaining necessary treatment, even when recommended by a medical professional. The right to make informed medical decisions is one of the most basic human rights and should not be denied to young people.
Access to medical information and confidentiality
A key component of medical consent is the right to access medical information, and keep medical records private. This is another basic right that is denied to young people.
The average patient can control their own medical records and decide who gets access to them. Young people on the other hand do not have this right to medical confidentiality. This has unseen health consequences because people are more likely to seek medical care if they believe their provider will keep their information private.
Young people can be also denied access to basic information regarding diagnosis and treatment, simply at the request of their parents. The Patient Self-Determination Act (PSDA) of 1990, which required health care providers to inform patients of all relevant information about their condition and prognosis, educate them about their options, and leave the choice up to the patient’s best judgement prior to any action. It does not apply to youth because the mere state of being under 18 automatically deems that patient incompetent to provide legal consent. Their largest downfall, by far, is a simple lack of knowledge, which could cause a patient of any age to appear intellectually incapable. Everyone, regardless of age has lapses in judgment and can make poor decisions, but nobody can make a wise decision when they are deprived of all pertinent information on the matter. A vicious cycle exists in the refusal to educate kids on their medical conditions. The only reason young people are denied the right to make their own medical decisions is because they are also denied the right to receive medical information. Although medical rights were expanding for adults, progress for minors continued to be hindered by the faultless factor of age.
Other obstacles to receiving medical care
Sometimes parents prevent young people from receiving medical care because it goes against their religion or personal beliefs. When the values of young people explicitly conflict with the values of their parents, those values can be disregarded entirely. While in many states, parents can be prosecuted for denying their children medical care, 34 states have laws exempting caretakers from criminal liability if the parent makes medical decisions for their child based on religious beliefs, including six states that provide a religious exemption against manslaughter.