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Medical Decisions

Medical decisions

As a young person, there will be times where you’re sick or may need to seek medical advice or procedures.

This section lets you know how medical decisions about you, as a young person, are made.

Can I make my own medical decisions as a young person?

You can give your own consent to medical decisions from the age of 16. You also have a right to refuse medical treatment from the age of 16. If a child or young person has the capacity to consent, they can also choose to consent or refuse to consent. Before then, your parents or guardians play a key role in making medical decisions, except for a few specific medical decisions.  However, even if you’re too young to consent, you should be informed about your medical situation and decisions in language that you understand.


If I’m under 16, do medical professionals need to at least consider what I want?

Even if you’re under 16, you still have a right to autonomy (independence to make your own decisions) and to make decisions about your health and lifestyle.

New Zealand has signed an international agreement called the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC), which promises to give you these rights. It is also what’s called the Gillick principle. This means that doctors and medical professionals need to consider how able you are to understand the situation and to make decisions. At any age, they should take your views into account. If they think you’re mature enough to make a reasonable decision yourself, then they should follow your wishes. Usually, the older you are, the more likely it is that you will be mature enough to make your own decisions.

Can medical professionals ignore my decisions?

At any age, particularly under 16, medical professionals may decide that there is some reason why you’re not able to make good decisions about your own health. This could be because you’re unconscious, in shock, mentally incapacitated, or their assessment of your maturity.

If this happens, it’s up to your parent, guardian, caretaker or closest relations to provide their consent for you.

How old do I have to be to get birth control or an abortion?

You can obtain or buy contraception at any age. You can also give consent to get an abortion at any age.
If you need to get some medical information on this, please contact your local Family Planning clinic. Their services are free for anyone under the age of 22 and are a New Zealand resident.

I don’t want medical treatment done on me, can I refuse?

You have a right to refuse medical treatment. If a medical professional decides that you’re able to provide your own consent, and you refuse to have the treatment, the medical professional must not go ahead with the medical treatment.

Can doctors overrule my guardians’ decision to not go ahead with medical treatment for me?

If your parent, guardian or next-of-kin refuses consent, the medical professional must not go ahead with the medical treatment. However, if you’re under 17 and the medical professional thought that the person refusing consent was deliberately trying to harm you by refusing consent, they could ask the Ministry for Children – Oranga Tamariki (MCOT) to get involved. In extreme situations, the Family Court could make a guardianship order, meaning that MCOT would take over as your legal guardian. It would then be up to them to refuse consent on your behalf.

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