Legal push for teens
A proposal will soon go before the Freundel Stuart Cabinet to enact legislation giving 16 year olds the right to access medical help without parental consent.
Notice of this came last evening from UNICEF Children’s Champion Faith Marshall-Harris, who said while there was nothing on the law books preventing doctors from treating the teens at this time, medical professionals had been following common law.
She was speaking at an awards ceremony and conference hosted by the University of the West Indies and the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners .
The former magistrate pointed out anomalies in the legal system, such as the fact that 16 year olds could consent to sexual activity, legally terminate pregnancies and be issued with a driver’s licence.
She argued that making the provision legally binding would take the option out of the hands of doctors and could help reduce the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.
“One of the civil rights of the child is the right to be given the highest standard of health care available and this is not being given to them between the ages of 16 and 18 if they cannot access it freely. It is suggested that as long as doctors continue to maintain that position the law should provide categorically that the 16 to 18 year old should be treated with or without parental consent and below the age of 16 years the Gillick principle should apply,” she said.
This principle refers to a legal case in Britain, which looked at whether doctors should be able to give contraceptive advice or treatment to under 16-year-olds without parental consent.
“Medical intervention with or without parental consent for the 16 to 18 year old could therefore mean an abatement in teenage pregnancies and an abatement in the transmission of of STI’s and HIV. . . A medical practitioner in Barbados should feel confident in following the Gillick guidelines when giving advice to persons 16 and over,” the former magistrate added.