Conflicts between Parents and Children
The parents of a 17 year old may legally retain the right to determine the minor’s medical care; however, the courts have been reluctant to allow parents to deny mature minors elective care. Although a physician should find out the legal requirements in his or her state, in general, physicians may provide birth control information and counseling, treatment for substance abuse, and treatment for communicable diseases to mature minors. In some states, minors may be entitled to consent to such care without their parents’ being informed.
The more difficult cases involve attempts by parents to force care on mature minors. The most common scenario involves involuntary psychiatric care for an allegedly drug- abusing or crazy teenager. There is sometimes a fine line between self- destructive behavior and normal adolescent rebellion. Physicians have an ethical obligation not to allow psychiatric care to be used to manipulate or punish a recalcitrant child. Legally, the child could sue for malpractice against the physician who recommends unnecessary psychiatric care.