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Medical Decisions and Children
Can children ever make medical decisions without their
parents or guardians? Let's look at what the law says.
18 and Over
At 18, you become an adult in the eyes of the law and can make your own decisions.
14 to 17 Years Old
Children in this age bracket can make certain medical decisions on their own.
Care Necessary for Health
These children can decide on their own about care "necessary for their health."
This includes care that cures illness, but also care that improves health and prevents ill health. It also includes mental health care.
Here are two examples:
- taking medication
- blood tests
Parents are not notified when a 14- 17-year-old gets this kind of care. But there is an exception: parents are notified if the child has to stay in a health or social services institution for more than 12 hours.
Children 14 to 17 can also make some decisions about non-necessary care.
What is non-necessary care? An example is birth control (when there is no medical reason to take it).
We said some decisions about non-necessary care. This is because permission from parents or a guardian is needed if the care involves a serious risk or could cause serious and permanent side effects. An example could be major plastic surgery for esthetic reasons.
Under Age 14
For these children, the parents or guardians have full responsibility for medical decisions. These children can't make medical decisions on their own.
What Parents Must Consider
Parents making medical decisions for children must always act in the best interests of the child. So, for example, they cannot make decisions based only on their own religious beliefs.Also, parents must consider the child's point of view.
In a few cases, health professionals must get court permission to treat a child. Here is an example:the adult who must give permission refuses it without good reason
What happens in emergencies? There is often no time to consult the patient or a parent or guardian.If the patient's life or physical integrity is in danger and there is no time to get permission, health professionals can go ahead and treat the patient.
A Note About Abortion
Children 14 to 17 can make a decision about this on their own. This is true whether it's medically necessary or a personal choice.
Remember, these children can make decisions on their own about necessary care. They can also decide about non-necessary care if there are no serious risks or serious and permanent side effects. The law does not consider that abortion poses these risks.
Want to learn more?
See the Crimes, Tickets and Fines section of Éducaloi's Youth Zone: www.educaloi.qc.ca/en/youth
Éducaloi is a non-profit organization that explains the law to Quebecers in easy-to-understand language. www.educaloi.qc.ca
Important! This article is meant as legal information, not legal advice. If you need advice about a specific situation, consult a lawyer or notary.
The information is up to date to March 22, 2016. It deals with Quebec law only.
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