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What are the rules that govern teenage patients who come to the ED to be seen for sexually transmitted diseases?

Monday March 4, 2013
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Question:

Dear Nancy,

What are the rules that govern teenage patients who come to the ED to be seen for sexually transmitted diseases? Can they sign their discharge papers? Whom can we share their information with? This is a very grey area for me, so please be specific.

Leslie



Nancy Brent replies:

Dear Leslie,

In many states, minors under the age of 18 are given specific rights when it comes to treatment for mental illness, STDs and pregnancy evaluation and treatment. When that treatment is sought by the minor, it is confidential and cannot be shared with anyone, including the parents, unless the minor gives his or her consent — or if the disease is one that must be reported to the state department of health, or if other specific exceptions apply.

You need to obtain specific information about what your state laws say about these situations. The adopted policies of the ED should provide you with this information. Another resource is your ED nurse manager. Your questions are valid ones and the hospital resources, especially individuals, should want you to conduct yourself as your state laws require.

However, if you are not getting the guidance you need from these two sources, you can share your concerns with the risk manager of the hospital and also seek the information through a consultation with a nurse attorney or attorney in your state.

Regards,
Nancy




Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.