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Mature Minor

Washington's statutory scheme is akin to the average statutory schemes of most states in that it does not broadly allow a minor to consent to general medical or dental care. However, Washington does have provisions under which a minor can consent to the specific mental health, substance abuse, communicable disease, contraceptive, and prenatal forms of health care.

In Washington, the age at which a minor may consent to treatment for an STD is 14.380 The STD statute sets contains specific language that the age of minority may not serve as a disaffirmance of consent. Similar to California, parents are not fiduciarily responsible for treatment provided under this statute. Additionally, a minor may consent to outpatient treatment for alcohol and substance abuse treatment at the age of 13.381 In-patient treatment requires parental consent except in narrow circumstances defined by the state in 13.32A.030(4)(c).382

With regard to prenatal and contraceptive care, the state of Washington has enacted broad statutes in which reproductive rights and concern for low birth rates in the state are recognized, and has promulgated programs to address the health care needs of expectant mothers and their anticipated children. Under Wash. Rev. Code Ann. 9.02.100 (West 2002) (enacted in 1988, without revision), ``Reproductive privacy - Public policy,'' Washington broadly provides for contraceptive choices for women by providing: "The sovereign people hereby declare that every individual possesses a fundamental right of privacy with respect to personal reproductive decisions. Accordingly, it is the public policy of the state of Washington that: (1) Every individual has the fundamental right to choose or refuse birth control.`` Under Title 74, ''Public Assistance,`` Chapter 74.09, ''Medical Care, Maternity Access Program," the state has stated, in Wash. Rev. Code Ann. 74.09.770 (West 2002) (enacted in 1989, without revision), that the purpose in enacting legislation with respect to prenatal care is "to provide, consistent with appropriated funds, maternity care necessary to ensure healthy birth outcomes for low-income families," and has, to this end, established a maternity health care access system. Under this system, minors may seek prenatal care through Wash. Rev. Code. Ann. 74.09.790 (West 2002) (enacted in 1989, without revision), where it defines an ``at-risk eligible person'' as one who is an "eligible person determined by the department to need special assistance in applying for and obtaining maternity care, including pregnant women who are substance abusers, pregnant and parenting adolescents, pregnant minority women, and other eligible persons who need special assistance in gaining access to the maternity care system."

Mental health services are available to minors 13 years of age or older, and in-patient treatment is available without parental consent.383 Section 71.34.042, similar to the specific language in 70.24.110 (``a minor's consent to treatment of STDs is not disaffirmed because of minority''), sets forth a minor's right of self-determination and autonomy. A minor has the right to admit herself for in-patient mental health treatment without parental consent, and once voluntarily admitted, may give notice to leave at any time, and the appropriate mental health professional will ``discharge the minor from the facility upon the receipt of the minor's notice of intent to leave.'' However, health professionals still retain the right to contact a minor's parents to notify them of the service requested by the minor.384 Again, this evinces the state's willingness to afford minors a right to consent to their own treatment, yet still retains an authoritative parental role in hopes of protecting unwise choices by immature minors.

In summary, the state of Washington provides many forms of health care services to minors on their consent alone. While Washington may not have a general health care statute, the state does not remain silent on a minor's affirmative right of self-determination and consent.


Wash. Rev. Code Ann. 70.24.110 (West 2002), enacted in 1969, amended in 1988.
Wash. Rev. Code Ann. 70.96A.095 (West 2002), enacted 1989, amended 1991, 1995, 1996, 1998.
Wash. Rev. Code. Ann. 70.96A.235 (West 2002), enacted 1998, amended 2000.
Wash. Rev. Code Ann. 71.34.030 (West 2002), enacted 1998; Wash. Rev. Code Ann. 71.34.042 (West 2002), enacted 1998.
Wash. Rev. Code Ann. 71.34.230 (West 2002), enacted 1998 (Any provider of outpatient treatment who provides outpatient treatment to a minor thirteen years of age or older shall provide notice of the minor's request for treatment to the minor's parents if ... the treatment program director determines that the minor lacks capacity to make a rational choice regarding consenting to disclosure. The notice shall be made within seven days of the request for treatment, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, and shall contain the name, location, and telephone number of the facility providing treatment, and the name of a professional person on the staff of the facility providing treatment who is designated to discuss the minor's need for treatment with the parent).

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Next: Legal Access Up: Washington Previous: Emancipation   Contents   Index
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