This section offers information about your rights and responsibilities when receiving health care and interacting with health care practitioners. It includes information about insurance, birth control and access to clinical records.
Health care practitioners can be doctors, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists and so on. Understanding the health care system as a young person can sometimes be difficult and even a little scary. Health care includes anything that is performed or prescribed by a health care practitioner to treat or diagnose a mental/physical health condition.
You have the right to see a health care practitioner by yourself. You can see someone without the involvement of your parent(s)/guardian(s). You can give permission for others to be with you at an appointment. This may not be the case in an emergency where you are “incapable,” and cannot talk or give permission. You must be able to understand information about your treatments and how to make decisions based on the information. For example, your doctor may feel comfortable letting you handle information and decisions such as prescription medication. They could decide that you need more support if the information and decisions are more serious. If you need surgery for example, they may want you to have more support. If you are under the care of child protective services and over the age of 12, you do not need permission to see a health care practitioner.
It can sometimes feel embarrassing to talk about intimate issues. You should never let that stop you from going to see a health care practitioner. They are there to give you help and advice. Your doctor may have helped other people with the same concerns that you have. Your doctor will not laugh at you for asking questions, even about those personal issues. Your doctor could be the person to help you address your health concerns and help determine the best next steps.
A doctor or other healthcare practitioner should not give out any of your information to anyone else without your permission. This includes your parents. Any permission that you do give should be given with something called a consent form. The form outlines exactly what information you want to share and who you are agreeing to share it with. If you are in the care of Child Protective services , your health care practitioner is not allowed to share your information with a foster parent, social worker or anyone else without your permission.
Professionals—doctors, social workers, therapists, nurses, etc.—who work with people under the age of 16 are required to report all reasonable suspicions of harm. They must make a report if they believe you are in need of protection. If you are under 16, and you tell your counsellor that you are being abused or neglected, they have to report this.
You have the right to access your medical records. No one else can see your clinical record without your permission. Your clinical record includes documents like notes, letters and reports written by your health care practitioner about you and your medical history. In certain cases, they can decide that you should not see your clinical record if it could be harmful for you to see it. Child protective services such as The Children’s Aid Society may make a decision like this.
Yes. If you have a medical emergency, or if you are hurt or in pain, go to the hospital immediately. If you do not have insurance, you will not be turned away.
If you are unsure about any medical treatments, you have the right to ask questions, and to ask lots of them! Your consent or refusal for different plans and treatments has to be voluntary and informed. If you are worried about forgetting some of your questions, you can make a list and refer to it. There are some things that your health care practitioner should explain:
- what the treatment is
- what it is for
- how it will help you
- possible risks
- possible side effects
- other options and alternatives
- consequences of not having the treatment
You can always change your mind after consenting. You can withdraw consent at anytime. Tell your health care practitioner that you do not want this treatment anymore. It could also be helpful to write a short note saying that you do not want to continue the treatment, and include your signature and the date.
If you are found to be “incapable,” this could affect your rights. This could mean that the practitioner decides whether you can completely understand the issue you are facing. They will want to know that you will understand the treatment and what might happen if you refuse consent. You have the right to appeal this decision. However, if you are found to be “incapable,” your health care practitioner cannot make decisions for you. You will need to have someone who is your substitute decision-maker to step in and help. Your substitute decision-maker must consider your wishes and act in your best interests, as well as make sure their decisions are in line with your values and beliefs. This decision-maker is usually a parent/guardian, but they can also be:
- your court appointed lawyer
- your court appointed lawyer
- your attorney for personal care
- a person appointed by the Consent and Capacity Board
- Child protective services or another person standing in place of a parent/guardian
- your parent, even if they only have access rights
- your sibling (they must be 16 years of age or older)
- any other relative
- the public guardian and trustee
When it comes to your mental health treatment, your rights are also very important. If you are feeling suicidal or need help right away with mental health issues you can make the decision to go to a hospital on your own. The hospital has final say and they will only take you if they agree you need their help.
There are laws to protect us when we are mentally unhealthy at any age. If someone—a doctor, a teacher, a police officer, a friend or a relative—thinks you are in danger of harming yourself or other people, you can be put in a psychiatric facility. This is a place for the treatment of people dealing with a mental health issue. If someone is concerned that you are showing an inability to take care of yourself, you can be put in a psychiatric facility. For example, if you are walking outside in the snow with shorts and no shoes, walking into traffic, not eating, purging what you do eat, etc. If you are admitted in this way, it is called being an “involuntary patient.” If you are there voluntarily, you can leave at any time. If you are an involuntary patient, you have to stay until
- your doctor gives you permission to leave
- the Consent and Capacity Board says you can leave
- the admittance forms expire and you are no longer an involuntary patient
You can talk to your doctor about your mental health. They can try to help you navigate different options you may have, such as counselling, or group therapy as an example.
Yes, you are able to go to a sexual health clinic if you are under 18. The health care practitioners in this setting can give you lots of information on safe sex practices and answer any questions you may have. Safe sex practices, such as birth control and contraception, are important in the prevention of unwanted pregnancies. Safe sex practices are also important to protect you from things like sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and diseases. You can get some forms of birth control, such as condoms, at any age. There are some options that include hormones, for example the birth control pill (“the Pill”). You must have started your period in order to use these safely.
You can get a prescription for birth control from your health care practitioner or from a sexual health clinic. Some walk-in clinics also provide prescriptions, but it is better to check beforehand. If you have benefits from a health plan or are covered under your parent/guardian’s health plan, it can cover some of or all of the cost. Some sexual health clinics also provide birth control at a lower cost than pharmacies.
For emergency contraception, such as PlanB, although the packaging states you have to be 17 and older to use it, anyone can buy it without having to show identification. You can get PlanB from the pharmacy without a prescription. You can sometimes get it at a lower cost by going to a sexual health clinic.
Some forms of birth control such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) must be fitted by a doctor, and they may have to perform an internal and external pelvic exam. Some may require you to get a Pap test before prescribing hormonal birth control.
You do not need permission from a parent/guardian to get birth control. It is illegal for health care practitioners or clinic workers to tell your parent(s)/guardian(s) that you were even at the clinic without your permission.
A Pap test is a way to check the cells on a person’s cervix (the entrance of the uterus) to make sure they are healthy. You deserve to be treated with repect and without judgement during this process. This means having the right to say “yes” or “no” to any treatment. This includes telling them to slow down. You can ask for different sized tools. You can ask for more lubricant. You can also ask them to stop.
Yes. There are questions you can ask to see if they are Trans* friendly. These include
- Have you worked with gender-expansive or transgender youth before? Some people may not have had experience, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be open to learn.
- What if I feel like my gender is not right for me? Listen to their response, and ask yourself if you feel comfortable with their responses. Are they trying to provide help, or are they promoting “traditional” gender roles? Don’t feel like you have to argue. You can always remove yourself from the situation, or if you feel comfortable, offer to connect them with resources.
If you do not identify as a woman, or if you have your own identifications and words for your body parts, let your health care practitioner know. You have the right to be addressed in the correct way, and in a way that is inclusive of your gender identity.
Abortion is a safe medical procedure that ends pregnancy. In Canada abortions are legal. The age at which you are allowed to get an abortion without your parent(s)/guardian(s) knowing and without their consent can range from 14 to the age of majority (18 to 19, depending on your province/territory; see Age of Majority chart). Individual doctors can have their own rules about what age you have to be to consent to an abortion on your own behalf, so it is important to do some research.
Yes, and it can be very rewarding. However, parenthood comes with major responsibilities. Many things should be considered before deciding to keep the child.
There is a lot of responsibility and work that comes with parenting, especially as a young parent. Things you should consider before making this decision are
- Support: Social, emotional and financial support either from family members or close friends will be extremely helpful as young parents.
- Finances: Raising a child is expensive and can make employment opportunities harder to find.
- Education: Although not impossible, it can be hard to finish school while caring for a child.
- Goals: Because parenting is expensive and becomes your full-time job, many young parents find their goals get put on hold and sometimes, with the reality of parenting, may never get accomplished at all.
- Lifestyle: Parenting requires a lot of lifestyle adjustments, this can often mean a quick jump into adulthood that some may not be ready for.
Adoption is a process that takes place when a child becomes part of a family that is not their birth parents’ family. If you are a minor you do not need a parent/guardian’s permission to put your child up for adoption. You have the right to give your baby up for adoption, and you do not need permission to do so. Parents who are minors have the same rights and responsibilities as parents who are adults. The adoption can’t be undone because the parents were minors when they made the decision to give their child up for adoption. The person or the agency that is helping you arrange the adoption has to give you a chance to get legal information and advice before signing any consent forms.
If you are under the age of 18, there are some things to consider:
- It is against the law for a birth parent or anyone else to get paid in any way when releasing a child for adoption.
- There are different kinds of adoptions, which have different limits on staying in contact with the child.
- You can’t just give your child to another person without going through the adoption process.
You have to register the birth of your child within 30 days after they are born. The birth mother and birth father have to sign a form in front of a lawyer that will consent to putting the child up for adoption once the baby is 8 days old. If you don’t know who the father is, or if they or not in the picture, or the child is born as a result of sexual assault, the father’s rights can be waived through a court process, and the adoption can proceed.
When you put a child up for adoption there are different types of adoption arrangements to choose from, these include
This means you can share information and/or contact the adoptive parents of the child before and after the placement of the child, and even continuing for the life of the child.
This means that you will have no direct contact with the child or the adoptive family, but you may be able to receive some information about the child through cards, pictures, letters, emails, etc.
Sometimes also referred to as a “confidential” arrangement, this means that you will have no contact with the child or the adoptive family.