Skip to main content

I'm under 18. When can I get health care without an adult's consent?

Find out what medical/health care you can get on your own if you are under age 18. #5935EN

Please Note:

  • Read this only if you live in the state of Washington.
  • You can find the fact sheets we link to here at WashingtonLawHelp.org.

Introduction

Yes, you should read this if you are under age 18 and you need to get health care without letting the adult in your life know about it.

Yes. Under state law, doctors or other medical providers might have to get consent from the adult in your life who is authorized to make those decisions.

You will learn:

  • Who the “authorized adult” in your life might be.
  • What medical care you can get without an authorized adult’s consent.
  • If you need to be at least a certain age to get different types of medical care without that adult’s consent.
  • Where you can get more help.

Defining “Authorized Adult”

When you are under age 18, an authorized adult is someone at least age 18 who has the legal power (authority) to agree (consent) to health care for you. This person may be: 

  • Your parent 
  • An adult who has court permission, like a court order, to make health care decisions for you (legal guardian or custodian, out-of-home placement order) 
  • An adult relative who has your parent's written permission to make health care decisions for you 
  • An adult relative responsible for your health care
  • In some situations, a school nurse, school counselor, or homeless student liaison could be an authorized adult for you

Yes, they could be. Many relative caregivers of children and youth under age 18 do not have a court order or power of attorney. However, they can still consent to health care for you. RCW 7.70.065(2). We’ve attached a copy of the law below. You can bring it to an appointment with your health care provider.

It depends. The adult you are living with might have court permission or written authorization. If they don’t, they might be able to get it. Read I am age 12 – 17. What are my rights in a minor guardianship case? and Power of Attorney (POA) for Parents to learn more about what options you might have.
In other situations, a school nurse, school counselor, or homeless student liaison might agree to be an authorized adult for you.

 

Medical Eligibility and Services Available

You can get emergency health care at any age without the consent of an authorized adult. RCW 7.70.050(4).

You can get abortion services at any age without the consent of an authorized adult. RCW 9.02.100(2).

Yes, if any of these is true for you:

  • In certain situations, where a school nurse, school counselor, or homeless student liaison consents for you.
  • You are emancipated.
  • You are married to an adult.
  • The health care provider determines you are a mature minor.

* Read Emancipation of Minors in Washington State to learn more about emancipation and process to get emancipated.

* The King County Department of Health website has a good explanation of the Mature Minor Rule. Whether you meet the requirements to be considered a Mature Minor depends on the facts of your personal situation and what a health care provider thinks about these facts.

Yes, if you are at least 13 years old. This is true for both outpatient care (where you do not stay overnight) and inpatient care (where you have to stay at the place where you are getting the treatment). If you go into inpatient treatment, the provider might have to let an authorized adult know.

  • You can read the law at RCW 71.34.530 for outpatient substance-use treatment and at RCW 71.34.500 for inpatient. 

You can ask for and get mental health care on your own if you are at least 13 years old. This is true for both outpatient care (where you do not stay overnight) and inpatient care (where you have to stay at the place where you are getting the treatment). If you go into inpatient mental health case, the provider probably has to let an authorized adult know.

Consultations related to gender identity can be considered mental health care. Depending on your relationship with your provider, you should be able to get mental health care for this reason without an authorized adult if you are at least 13 years old.

  • You can read the law at RCW 71.34.530 for outpatient mental health care and RCW 71.34.500(1) for inpatient mental health care.

Yes, if you are at least 14 years old.

Yes. You can get prenatal care at any age without the consent of an authorized adult.

Yes. You can get birth control at any age without an authorized adult.

Maybe. Depending on your provider, birth control (see above) might also include the puberty blockers and hormone treatment that are part of gender care.

You might want to think about becoming emancipated, or filing a Mature Minor court petition. Both of these have downsides. Talk to a lawyer.

Maybe. For most medical programs, you can apply online at wahealthplanfinder.org, by calling 1-855-923-4633 (1-855-WAFINDER), or by asking for a paper application from HealthPlanFinder or from your local DSHS office.

Get Legal Help

Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help. 

Last Review and Update: Jan 11, 2022
Was this information helpful?
Back to top