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Med J Aust. 2005 Oct 17;183(8):410-4.

Confidential health care for adolescents: reconciling clinical evidence with family values.

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Department of General Practice, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC.


Community debate about confidential health care for adolescents was triggered recently by the federal government's proposal to allow parents of teenagers aged 16 years and under access to their children's Health Insurance Commission data without their consent. Extensive research evidence highlights the importance of confidentiality in promoting young people's access to health care, particularly for sensitive issues such as mental and sexual health, and substance use. Involving parents is important, but evidence for any benefit from mandatory parental involvement is lacking. The law recognises the rights of mature minors to make decisions about their medical treatment and to receive confidential health care; however, the doctor must weigh up certain factors to assess maturity and ensure that confidentiality around such treatment will be in the young person's best interests. Evaluation of maturity must take into account characteristics of the young person, gravity of the proposed treatment, family factors, and statutory restrictions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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