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Adult kids can see the doctor all by themselves

Parenthood bestows the medical responsibility of children to their parents. Thus parents, or appointed guardians, must always accompany minors for medical consults. Minors cannot also make decisions on any proposed treatments, or give medical consent. This remains the responsibility of their parents. But minors will transit into adults in the course of time, paving the way for assumption of the rights of adulthood. In medical terms, parental supervision must gradually cease, allowing the now adult kids to exercise some independence and responsibility for their own medical needs.

Adulthood is defined in both social and legal contexts. The age of 18 years is commonly accepted as the attainment of adulthood. But from a medical viewpoint, parents can judge when their children appear to attain certain thresholds of responsibility. This allows flexibility in deciding when to limit adult supervision in medical matters, thus delegating some medical independence to already grown up children.

If you are a parent, you must let go at some point as your children grow up. In late teenage and early twenties, they are all grown up and can pretty well interact with the doctor without your presence. You are welcome to accompany them to the doctor’s office, but keep away from the consultation room. You don’t need to hear all the details about their symptoms, you owe them a degree of independence and confidentiality. Don’t pore over their prescriptions to work out what they are being treated for. And for god’s sake, don’t return to the doctor to ask what the matter was. If your grown up child wants to tell you what’s ailing them, they surely will. If they choose to keep it to themselves, respect that and don’t nag them. They now have adulthood medical rights.

If you are a grown up child and already transited into adulthood, you must start exercising your own medical rights. You will know exactly when you need to see a doctor. You don’t need your parents to baby-sit you any more during a consultation. You should be able to describe your symptoms to the doctors, and be able to understand your diagnosis and treatment options. As an adult of legal age, you can legally consent to proposed treatments, or even decline. You are owed medical confidentiality, no one else needs to know your medical details. Even your parents.

But there must always be a middle ground. Parents should always maintain some leeway and help their adult children with medical matters as much as possible. This can always be done without parents being unnecessarily intrusive. Grown up children too should remain as open as possible with their parents when faced with medical issues. If a good balance is attained, newly grown up adults will responsibly take care of their own health, with their parents maintaining a respectful distance.

Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynecologist and Fertility

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