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Your right to medical consent and confidentiality

Find out about your right to consent and confidentiality when receiving medical treatment.

Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health

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Giving medical consent means giving permission for surgical or medical treatment. If you are under 16 years of age then your parents or guardian must consent to any surgical or medical treatment you receive. However, you should still be told about the treatment and your views or concerns should be taken into consideration.

If you are over 16, but under 18 years of age, you can consent to surgical and medical treatment. However, some doctors and hospitals may also still look for your parent’s consent.

Confidentiality when under 18 years of age

It can be pretty difficult opening up to someone about something personal like your health, so it’s important that you know that what you say is confidential. Once you turn 16, in most situations doctors have an ethical responsibility to keep your information confidential. However, there are a few cases where they may pass on the information you have shared with them to other colleagues or to your family.

These include any concerns that you may harm yourself or others, or if a doctor is concerned that you or another child is being harmed in any way they have an obligation to report their concerns to the Child and Family Agency, TusLa. If you are about to divulge something you want kept confidential it can often help to ask the person whether they can keep what you say confidential.

Confidentiality when 18 years+

Once you turn 18, a doctor is obliged to keep everything you tell them confidential unless they are concerned that you may hurt yourself, or others. In such situations the doctor should discuss this with you first. If you feel uncomfortable or are unsure about confidentiality, ask the doctor or the clinic at the start of your visit whether the information will be confidential or whether your parents will be told. Also ask the doctor if they are obliged to tell anyone else.

For most people talking to a doctor or other health professional about difficult subjects can be embarrassing and stressful. Remember that doctors, nurses and counsellors deal with these things every day, so try not to let it put you off speaking to them.


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Published December 20th, 2012
Last updated May 25th, 2018
Tags confidentiality consent
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