Consent to Medical Care for Minors

The Legal Framework
  • Walter J. Wadlington
Part of the Critical Issues in Social Justice book series (CISJ)


Whether minors should be accorded greater authority to make binding decisions on matters involving their personal welfare is a subject of considerable dispute today. After the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1971 assured that 18-year-olds could vote, many states lowered the general age of majority under their laws to conform with the voting age. Another catalyst for change was the concern that many statutes were vulnerable to constitutional challenge because they maintained differing ages for majority, or for marriage, based on sex.1 Some states lowered the general age of majority but retained (or added) higher minimum age requirements for acts such as purchasing alcoholic beverages. (Virginia, for example, permits a person to marry without consent at age 18 but not to purchase champagne—even for the wedding—until age 21.2) As a result of this somewhat haphazard process, the rules regarding majority today are a melange of legal anachronism and contemporary expediency which reflect only minimally our current understanding about the intellectual and emotional capacities and interests of young persons.


Parental Consent Medical Malpractice Punitive Damage Minor Child Legal Capacity 
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  1. 2.
    W. Prosser, Law of Torts 9 (4th ed. 1971 ).Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    See R. W. Bennett, Allocation of child care decisionmaking authority: A suggested interest analysis, 62 VA. L. REV. 285 (1976).Google Scholar
  3. 9.
    Younts V. St. Francis Hospital and School of Nursing, Inc., 205 Kan. 292, 469, P. 2d 330 (1970).Google Scholar
  4. 11.
    W. J. Wadlington, Minors and Health Care: The age of consent, 73 Osgoode Hall. L.J., 115, 117, et. seq. (1973).Google Scholar
  5. 26.
    See Gobbs V. Grant, 8 Cal.2d 229, 104 Cal. Rptr. 505, 502 P.2d 1 (1972); Canterbury v. Spence, 464Google Scholar
  6. 27.
    See Meisel & Kabnik, Informed consent to medical treatment: An analysis of recent legislation, 41 U. Pitt. L. Rev. 407 (1980).Google Scholar
  7. 29.
    Gobbs v. Grant, 104 Cal. Rptr. 505, 516, 502, P.2d 1, 12 (1972).Google Scholar
  8. 31.
    See Halbman V. Lemke, 99 Wis. 2d 241, 298 N.W.2d 562 (1980); Gardner v. Flowers, 529 S.W.2d 708 (Tenn. 1975 ).Google Scholar
  9. 35.
    See Little v. Little, 576 S.W.2d 493 (Tex. Civ. App. 1979) and cases cited therein.Google Scholar
  10. 36.
    See Hart v. Brown, 29 Conn. Sup. 368, 280 A. 2d 386 (1972).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Walter J. Wadlington
    • 1
  1. 1.School of LawUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

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