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Minors' Rights in Medical Decision Making

Hickey, Kathryn BA, RN

JONA's Healthcare Law, Ethics, and Regulation: July-September 2007 - Volume 9 - Issue 3 - p 100-104
doi: 10.1097/01.NHL.0000287968.36429.a9

In the past, minors were not considered legally capable of making medical decisions and were viewed as incompetent because of their age. The authority to consent or refuse treatment for a minor remained with a parent or guardian. This parental authority was derived from the constitutional right to privacy regarding family matters, common law rule, and a general presumption that parents or guardians will act in the best interest of their incompetent child. However, over the years, the courts have gradually recognized that children younger than 18 years who show maturity and competence deserve a voice in determining their course of medical treatment. This article will explore the rights and interests of minors, parents, and the state in medical decision making and will address implications for nursing administrators and leaders.

Author Affiliations: Shriners Hospitals for Children-Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.

Corresponding author: Kathryn Hickey, BA, RN, Shriners Hospitals for Children-Chicago, 2211 N Oak Park Ave, Chicago, IL 60707 (

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.