The nature and scope of mature adolescents’ legal authority to consent to general medical treatment without parental involvement is often misrepresented by commentators. This state of affairs is further complicated by the law itself, which has developed a broad “mature minor exception” to the general requirement of parental consent in abortion cases and which has additionally carved out numerous specific status-based and condition-based exceptions to that requirement. In these circumstances, it is not always a simple matter for physicians and other medical professionals who treat adolescents to ascertain the applicable law. In this article, we discuss the underlying differences between medical ethics and law, which have caused some of the confusion in this area, and we set out the most current legal rules governing adolescent decision-making authority in general medical settings. A comprehensive analysis of both statutory and common law demonstrates that in such settings, parental consent continues to be required by most jurisdictions, even when the minor can be considered cognitively “mature.”

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