Proposed restrictions on teen medical care spark debate
Posted May 8, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Area parents said Wednesday that they are torn over legislation that would require parental approval for a range of medical treatments sought by teens.
House Bill 693 would require notarized written approval from a parent before a doctor or other provider could diagnose, treat or even counsel anyone under 18 for mental health or substance abuse. Parental approval would also be required for contraception, pregnancy care and testing for sexually transmitted diseases.
The bill, which was to be debated by the full House Wednesday afternoon, was removed from the calendar and sent to the House Judiciary Committee for more review.
Proponents said the legislation strengthens parental rights to determine how best to meet their children's medical needs.
"Involving parents in these important health care decisions is a vital part of restoring the fundamental right of parents," said Jere Royall, a lawyer for the North Carolina Family Policy Council. "When you're trying to look at important health care decisions, should parents be involved? That's what this law is helping to reinforce."
Physician groups say the measure could discourage teens from seeking medical or psychological help that could save their lives. They might not feel comfortable talking to their parents about an issue like a sexually transmitted disease, or they might be in an abusive situation at home, opponents said.
"There's a concern that all North Carolinians really should be worried about our teens and how to keep our teens as healthy as possible," said Dr. Peter Morris, a Raleigh pediatrician. "In previous years, the General Assembly has realized that the need to ensure teens timely access to the appropriate health care is something that should be protected by statute."
Parents said they see both sides of the issue and have a hard time deciding which side to take.
"I'm a little torn," Brandy Edwards said. "It's going to prevent children from getting the care that they would get or prolong the care, but then I'm also for the family. ... I definitely would want to know what's going on with my children as soon as possible."
The bill would also extend to pharmacists, who would be unable to dispense any medication used to treat any of the subject conditions without the presence or notarized permission of the parent.
Because federal law requires strict confidentiality in the provision of medical care and bans age discrimination against minors, providers who get Title X or Medicaid funds would not be subject to the parental consent requirement. That would include most community health centers, county health departments and Planned Parenthood.