The latest outbreak of measles in the United States hassome teenagers turning to social media to ask how they can get vaccinated against their parents’ wishes.
Legally, children do not have autonomy to make their own medical decisions, but regulations vary state by state.
In California, 12-year-olds can consent to medical treatment for sexually transmitted infections. These include the vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV), which has become a target for anti-vaccination campaigners.
On Boston Public Radio Wednesday, medical ethicist Art Caplan said the HPV vaccination rates in the U.S. lag behind other countries that have rolled out the vaccine that protects against cervical cancer, but some kids are seeking ways to get innoculated on their own.
"We've had this huge fight about, do we give kids just before they become sexually active, let's say 13, 14, 15, the shots. Some parents don't want to do it, or some anti-vaxx parents don't want to do it, and the kids want to get vaccinated," Caplan said. "I think that's an area, reproductive health, where we already let kids make some decisions: you don't have to get permission from your parents to get contraceptives, this should be added to the list."
In Massachusetts, any minor can give consent to medical care if they are married, a parent, pregnant, living separately from their legal guardian, or reasonably believes they are suffering from a disease defined as dangerous to the public health. However, under current law, a woman under 18 seeking an abortion without parental consent must go to court to get a judge’s authorization.
Art Caplan is the Drs. William F and Virginia Connolly Mitty Chair, and director of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center. He’s also the co-host of the everyday ethics podcast.