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Medical Care for a Child

Most often, it is a parent or legal guardian who seeks medical treatment for a child under the age of eighteen. A parent or legal guardian also has the right to refuse medical treatment for a child if the procedure is neither urgent nor routine. However, in emergency circumstances, other people may be authorized to seek medical care and treatment for a minor child.

Parental Consent for Medical Treatment

In most states, a simple written statement signed by a child’s parent or legal guardian is enough. The law is flexible on what information this document contains. It can be precise about the type of medical treatment or care another person can obtain for the minor child. Or, it can give open-ended permission to the other person to get whatever medical care is necessary.

In the case of an emergency, a medical provider and/or hospital generally can provide a minor child with emergency medical treatment as needed, even without consent by a parent or legal guardian. This usually occurs when the minor child is unresponsive and a parent is unavailable to consent to treatment. However, if a parent or guardian objects to life-saving treatment for a minor child, the state may be able to step in.

When Can A Minor Choose Their Own Medical Treatment?

In some states, a minor child can consent to his or her own medical treatment or care. A minor over a certain age can usually consent to medical care relating to:

  • Contraception
  • Treating sexually transmitted diseases
  • HIV testing
  • Treating drug and alcohol addiction
  • Prenatal care
  • Treating mental health conditions
  • Abortion

Typically, a minor child can consent to these types of medical treatment in their teenage years. Additionally, if they are emancipated under state law, they usually can consent to any sort of medical treatment or care.

Who Can Access a Child’s Medical Records?

In most states, only parents and legal guardians have access to their minor child’s medical records. A parent or legal guardian can also sign a release of medical information form to grant another person access, such as a caretaker. An emancipated child would have access to his or her own medical records, as well.