Do you need your parents' permission to get medical care?

In BC, the law says:

  • you're a child (or a minor) until you're 19 years old, but
  • you can consent (agree) to your own medical care if you're "capable."

The law says you're capable if you understand:

  • why you need medical treatment,
  • what the treatment involves,
  • the benefits and risks of getting the treatment, and
  • the benefits and risks of not getting the treatment.

A doctor or another healthcare provider can treat you without getting permission from your parents or guardians if they:

  • explain all these things, and
  • decide you understand them.

You might have to sign a consent form.

There's no set age to say when you're capable. Doctors have to use their best judgment. They'll look at:

  • how mature you are, and
  • how serious the medical treatment is.

If you're capable, you can usually get medical treatment without your parents' or guardians' consent for things like:

  • birth control
  • abortion
  • mental health problems
  • sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • alcohol and drug addiction

And a doctor or healthcare provider can't talk to your parents or guardians about your medical care unless you agree.

Talk to them right away about how to protect your privacy if:

  • you're under 19, and
  • you want your doctor to keep your medical information confidential (private).

If a doctor believes you're being abused or that you might harm yourself or others, they have a legal duty to take steps to protect you by reporting this to the child protection authorities or following mental health laws.

The Justice Education Society's website Legal Rights for Youth has lots of useful information about how the law applies to young people. It has a whole section on medical rights.

Updated on 30 May 2019