New Government Discussions Place Young People’s Rights Under Serious Threat

// 19 October 2005

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You may already be aware that under-age people’s right to confidential sexual health advice is to be challenged in the courts next month by Sue Axon, a woman who wishes to prevent the possibility of doctors carrying out abortions on either of her daughters without her knowledge. She’s been giving interviews and making various appearances for a few months now (scroll down linked page) and I even recall her saying, on GMTV, that her daughters agree with her (causing me to let my crumpets go cold, as I attempted to contemplate what could possibly lead two girls at such a crucial stage in breaking away from parental control to support their own mother’s noisy declarations about her “parental rights”).

Even worse, the Department for Education and Skills is now consulting on whether the police should be automatically contacted whenever a person under sixteen seeks advice on contraception, pregnancy or abortion.

Luckily, the Department for Health has been challenging the idea and a spokesperson for them has pointed out that anxiety about confidentiality would be a “serious deterrent to many young people asking for contraceptive advice.” A Brook survey backed this suggestion up, with 74% of the under 16’s who were surveyed saying they would be put off seeking advice on the above issues if they knew the information could be passed on. Medical ethics experts have also expressed concern over the ideas the government are discussing, with Michael Wilks of the British Medical Association’s Ethics Committee saying that “although confidentiality is not absolute, and can be breached where there is a risk of serious harm, mandatory reporting of non-abusive relationships threatens the trust that underpins the relationship between doctors and patients.”

More information can be found on the BBC website.

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