Study: Adolescent Consent, Privacy Laws Vary Widely State-to-state and Should Be Aligned

Adolescent consent and privacy laws vary widely from one state to another and complicate the ability of teens to confidentially access sensitive health care services such as those for reproductive health, immunizations or substance use, according to a study published in the June 2022 Pediatrics. The study, “State-by-State Variability in Adolescent Privacy Laws,” published online Monday, May 9, finds that most state laws do not align with pediatric professional standards of care, such as recommendations provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The study provides an overview of adolescent consent and privacy laws and discusses implications of their variability and how they complicate and sometimes interfere with the interpretation and management of federal privacy laws. Researchers found, for example, that although all 50 states had provisions for consent to management of sexually transmitted infections, there were variable specifications in the age and type of minor, whether they include human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and whether confidentiality is protected. The study provides a summary of state-by-state minor consent policies for the following services: general medical care, immunizations, dental care, sexual assault evaluation, STI testing and treatment, HIV testing and treatment, contraceptive care, prenatal care, substance abuse treatment and mental health care. The authors call for state laws to be aligned with recommendations for best care, stating that a nationwide effort to harmonize state laws would increase consistency in privacy protection for adolescents.

This press release originally appeared in the American Academy of Pediatrics Newsroom. 

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