Medical

When can I go to the doctor alone?

There is no law that says how old you must be before you can go to the doctor alone. But if you do go alone, your doctor will need to make sure that you are able to understand any medical advice and information they give you during the appointment.

If you want to go to the doctor without your parent or carer it might be a good idea to call in advance to check that the doctor is happy to see you and keep the appointment private.

 

When can I consent to medical treatment?

There is no fixed age at which you can consent to medical treatment on your own.  It always depends on what kind of medical treatment you need, and whether your doctor thinks you fully understand what is involved.

When your doctor decides whether to give you medical treatment, they will consider:

  • your age and maturity;
  • your independence – whether you live at home with a parent or carer, or support yourself;
  • the seriousness of the treatment, and
  • whether you understand why the treatment is needed, what it involves, and things that might go wrong (like side-effects from drugs, or other complications).

If, after thinking about these things, your doctor thinks you are able to weigh up the advantages and risks of the treatment and then make a decision, you will be able to give consent.

 

Will my doctor tell anyone about my appointment?

Your doctor is usually not allowed to tell your parents that you visited the doctors or anything that was talked about during your visit. This is called confidentiality.

If you are concerned about your appointment being kept confidential (between just you and the doctor) you should check with your doctor before or at the beginning of the appointment.

In most cases your doctor must keep the things you talk about private and confidential, unless you say it is okay to tell other people.  If your doctor has decided that you are able to make your own decisions about your medical treatment (see When can I consent to medical treatment?), they are not usually allowed to tell anyone about your medical appointment even if your parents ask for information.

But, in certain situations where your doctor is worried about the health and safety of you or others, they may be legally required to tell another person or a government authority. For example, if

  • you have a serious infectious disease (like malaria, cholera, tuberculosis, syphilis, chlamydia or HIV/AIDS), your doctor must notify the Department of Health;
  • your doctor thinks you are being physically or sexually abused, they may notify the Department for Child Protection who may take action to investigate;
  • your doctor thinks you might hurt yourself or someone else, they may warn that person, your parent or carer, or the Department for Child Protection,
  • you want an abortion (see What about an abortion? below), they may be required to tell your parent or carer.

If you are having problems at home, your doctor is someone you can talk to. Remember, you will never be forced to return to a violent or abusive home.

 

When can I get contraception?

There is no age limit preventing you from buying contraception like condoms or spermicides at a pharmacy, or from getting medical advice about contraception without parental consent.

But certain medical contraceptives, such as the pill, require a prescription that you can only get from a doctor. This is because some medication may not be safe for everyone to take, and a doctor must first explain how to use the medication safely, and whether you need to avoid other drugs or alcohol while taking it.

Just like any medical treatment (see When can I consent to medical treatment?), the doctor must be satisfied that you understand their advice and that it is in your ‘best interests’ to receive a prescription without parental consent. When something is in your best interests, it means that overall it is good for your health and well-being.

The doctor may follow written guidelines when making this decision. These guidelines include considering things like whether: 

  • you understand the information and advice the doctor is giving you;
  • the doctor thinks your parents should be involved;
  • you are likely to have sex even if you don’t have contraceptives;
  • your physical or mental health are likely to suffer without contraception.

Your doctor may ask you to consider talking to your parents about contraception, if you haven’t already. If you don’t want your parent or carer involved, make this clear.

In the end, it is up to your doctor whether to give you a prescription for medical contraceptives.

 

Medicare

Can I get my own Medicare card?

To get a Medicare card you must first be enrolled in Medicare. If you are listed on your parent’s Medicare card, then this means you are eligible and already enrolled in Medicare. If you are not listed on your parent’s Medicare card, you need to apply. You will be eligible for Medicare if you are:

  • an Australian or New Zealand citizen (if you are 10 or older, were born in Australia, and have lived here most of your life, you are a citizen); or
  • in Australia with a permanent visa; or
  • have applied for a permanent visa (other conditions apply).

Your parent or guardian will probably know whether you are an Australian or New Zealand citizen, or whether you have a permanent visa. For detailed information about eligibility, you can contact Medicare Australia (www.medicareaustralia.gov.au), or send us a Lawmail.

If you are enrolled in Medicare and are 15 or older, you can get your own Medicare card by applying to Medicare Australia (www.medicareaustralia.gov.au).

If you are younger than 15, you might still be able to have a card of your own, but remain listed on your parent’s card as well. This card is called a ‘duplicate’ card, because it is a copy of your parent’s card. A duplicate card can be useful if you live away from home, for example if you attend boarding school or live with other relatives.  You should discuss this with your parent or guardian as they will need to sign the application form for your own card if you are under 15.

 

Will my parents have access to my Medicare records?

If your name is on your parent’s Medicare card, they will usually have access to your Medicare records.  If you are 14 or older, Medicare will not give information about your medical treatment to your parents without your consent, but your parents will still be able to see that you have visited a doctor.  This is because the information will be listed if your parents apply for a Medicare Tax Benefit Statement.

If you have your own Medicare Card then your parents will not have access to any of your Medicare records.

 

Last updated 11 May 2012