Can a minor refuse medical treatment?

UPDATED: Aug 23, 2011

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Can a minor refuse medical treatment?

My mother wants my sister to have a scar removed from her back. It is not harmful to her health and she does not want to have it removed. Is she allowed to refuse any procedures she doesn’t want to have done?

Asked on August 23, 2011 California


MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Usually patient consent is needed for any surgical procedure (out-patient or in-patient). If your sister is under 18 years of age, she needs to tell her doctor she does not wish to have the scar removed. More likely than not, the doctor will not wish to gamble away his medical career with a potential lawsuit by your sister. He will or she will refuse to do the procedure if it means your sister can sue once she becomes of age and has 10 years usually from that point to seek payment if she wins her lawsuit. She should inform the doctor in writing she does not wish to have the elective surgery. In many states, this could be considered assault and battery. Keep in mind, your sister (in order to win) needs to show that this is indeed unrelated to health issues. Scar tissue can sometimes be problematic health-wise, so be certain that her health is not at risk by not having the surgery.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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