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The Mature Minor Doctrine

The “mature minor” doctrine provides for minors to give consent to medical procedures if they can show that they are mature enough to make a decision on their own. It is a relatively new legal concept, and as of 2002 only a few states such as Arkansas and Nevada have enacted the doctrine into statute. In several other states, including Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Illinois, Maine and Massachusetts, state high courts have adopted the doctrine as law.

In the states where it exists, the mature minor doctrine takes into account the age and situation of the minor to determine maturity, in addition to factors and conduct that can prove maturity. The Arkansas statute states, “any unemancipated minor of sufficient intelligence to understand and appreciate the consequences of the proposed surgical or medical treatment or procedures, for himself [may offer consent].” The standard is typical of the requirements of the mature minor doctrine.

The mature minor doctrine has been consistently applied in cases where the minor is sixteen years or older, understands the medical procedure in question, and the procedure is not serious. Application of the doctrine in other circumstances is more questionable. Outside reproductive rights, the U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled on its applicability to medical procedures.

Inside The Mature Minor Doctrine