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Legal FAQs
Patient Consent
Can minors consent to their own healthcare decisions?

As a general rule, only competent adults (age 18) can consent to their own health care. Minors may only consent to their own health care if the minor:

  • Is emancipated;
  • Is ...
    • at least 14 years of age;
    • not dependent on a parent for support;
    • living apart from the minor's parents or from an individual in loco parentis; and
    • managing the minor's own affairs;
  • Is or has been married;
  • Is in the military service of the United States; or
  • Is authorized to consent to the health care by any other statute.

The only known statutory exceptions (part 5) are donating blood (age 17) and treatment for an actual, suspected or potential (exposed) venereal disease (no age limit). IC 16-36-1-3. Pregnancy and contraception are not exceptions.

Facilities that receive Title X Federal Family Planning Funds, e.g., Planned Parenthood, are allowed to treat minors age 14 and older pursuant to federal law. Private physician offices do not receive such funds and are not subject to such law.

The AMA also has several ethical policies on this issue (e.g., 5.055 Confidential Care for Minors).

Does patient healthcare consent have to be in writing?

Indiana law requires physicians to obtain informed consent from patients prior to rendering care or treatment. IC 34-18-12-4. That consent does not have to be in writing. IC 34-18-12-6. However, if the consent is written, signed, witnessed by an adult, and explained before a treatment, procedure, examination or test is undertaken, it creates a rebuttable presumption that the consent was informed. IC 34-18-12-2. This can be important in cases involving an adverse outcome or medical malpractice. Call your medical malpractice insurance carrier about risk management advice on this topic.

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