Can a minor refuse medical treatment?

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Can a minor refuse medical treatment?

Asked on December 10, 2010 under Family Law, South Dakota

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

The general rule is that for medical treatment of minors (children under the age of majority; typically 18), parental consent is required. It is felt that minors are not considered competent to make these type decisions.  However, something loosley referred to as the "Mature Minor Doctrine", provides an exception to this general rule. This doctrine is based on multiple state court decisions and statute, and holds that young people who are capable of providing appropriate informed consent may give valid consent for treatment which does not involve serious risks ((i.e. for treatment regarding sexually transmitted diseases, abortions, prescriptions for birth control, etc).

Where permitted, the mature minor doctrine has been consistently applied in cases where the minor is 16 years or older, understands the medical procedure in question, and the procedure is not serious. Additionally, while minors have a corresponding right to refuse treatment, it appears to be doubtful the courts will uphold the rights of a minor to refuse treatment that may be life saving. Finally, only a handful of states have implemented this doctrine in whole or in part.  My research suggests that SD does not recognize this doctrine at all.


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