In BC, a child under age 19 may consent to their own health care, if the child is capable. Learn what this means and other issues of health care consent.

What you should know

Under BC law, for a child’s consent to health care to be legally valid, the health care provider must conclude the care is in the child’s best interests.

If there is disagreement about what care is in a child’s best interests, the child welfare authorities may become involved. If a child or their parent refuses health care that two doctors say is necessary to preserve the child’s life or health, the child welfare authorities can ask a court to overrule the refusal. This application is made under section 29 of the Child, Family and Community Service Act.

More information is available from the Ministry of Children and Family Development. See their website at gov.bc.ca/mcf or call toll-free 1-877-387-7027.

A child's health care is confidential, if the child is capable. A doctor or health care provider can’t talk with the parents or guardians about a capable child’s health care, unless the child agrees. Just as doctors must keep information about their adult patients confidential, they must also keep information about their capable child patients confidential.

There are exceptions to this confidentiality rule. In some situations, a parent or guardian may be able to get their child’s medical information, or a doctor may have to disclose information to the Ministry of Children and Family Development. For example, if there is good reason to believe that a child might harm themselves or others, or there is suspected abuse (physical, sexual or emotional), then the information may not stay private. In that case, the child should be told why their information won’t be kept private and who it will be given to.

If a doctor considers a child not capable, they will tell the child’s parent or guardian if they treat the child.

For more on patient confidentiality, see our information on getting your medical records.

Tip

As a child, if you want your doctor to keep your medical information confidential, talk to the doctor before you get treatment to see if they agree you are capable, and if they will keep your information confidential. If not, you can look for a different doctor.

This information applies to British Columbia, Canada

Reviewed in June 2018

Time to read: 5 minutes

Reviewed for legal accuracy by

Katherine LeReverend, Ministry of Attorney General, Legal Services Branch

This information from People’s Law School explains in a general way the law that applies in British Columbia, Canada. The information is not intended as legal advice. See our disclaimer.

Related

On Dial-A-Law

Dial-A-Law has more information on Health care in the section on Health.