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Port Harcourt Medical Journal

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Minor's healthcare: who decides?

OC Osime

Abstract


Background: Presently in Nigeria and most other jurisdictions, healthcare providers erroneously believe that minors cannot give a valid consent to receive medical treatment.
Aim: To critically appraise the current practices where minors are deemed incompetent to give valid consent for medical treatment and to provide legal authorities to buttress the point that some categories of minors can give valid informed consent. The paper also seeks to review situations involving minors indeed where parents refuse to give consent for life saving procedures.
Methods: Google search was made to identify legal opinions on the subject of informed consent for medical treatment and minors. Findings from the search were analysed against the background of current practices of healthcare providers.
Results: Virtually all legal authorities are in agreement that minors can indeed give valid informed consent for treatment (or make informed refusal) provided the minor is mature or emancipated. And for minors indeed, the overall best interest of the child should be taken into consideration with respect to parents or guardians who may not consent to medical procedures.
Conclusion: Some categories of minors can give valid informed consent even when the parents refuse to consent to such treatment. A mature or emancipated minor can enjoy the same rights with respect to informed consent (or informed refusal) for medical treatment. However, there is need for healthcare providers to critically appraise the local challenges in order not to create hardship for the minor after he/she has given consent for treatment.

Keywords: Minors, Informed consent/ refusal, Healthcare providers, Legal authorities, Local challenges



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