Legal Considerations for the Adolescent Patient

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Reference Manual, informed consent is defined as the process of providing the patient or in the case of a minor or incompetent adult, the parent or legal guardian with relevant information regarding diagnosis and treatment needs so that an educated decision regarding treatment can be made by the patient or parent. Laws regarding consent by pregnant patients under 18 years of age vary from state-to-state. Some states allow pregnant minors full emancipation, while some allow only decisions pertaining to the pregnancy or the born child. Some states require that all health decisions are in the realm of the pregnant minor’s parents. If a pregnant adolescent’s parents are unaware of the pregnancy and state laws require parental consent for dental treatment, the practitioner should encourage the adolescent to inform them so appropriate informed consent for dental treatment can be obtained.19 Health care providers should familiarize themselves with their state’s regulations and policies regarding the legal rights of minors.