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A mother’s right to know?

Post date: 22/09/2014 | Time to read article: 1 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 14/11/2018

Mrs B is well-known at her local GP surgery as she regularly attends for asthma check-ups, or to accompany her daughter to appointments.

One afternoon, Mrs B attends her GP surgery alone to book a routine appointment and, as she arrives, the receptionist asks if she’s there to collect her daughter’s prescription which had been ready for collection since the previous day. Mrs B, unaware that her daughter had even seen the GP recently knows nothing about a prescription and therefore says no – but her curiosity is aroused and later that day asks her daughter, 14-year-old Patient A, what it was for.

Patient A refuses to tell her what it’s for and, suspecting it could be for the contraceptive pill, Mrs B revisits the GP surgery demanding to see the consultation notes. The doctor is unsure whether she has right to see them or not due to the patient’s age.

Expert opinion

The key issue in determining whether a parent has the right to access their child’s medical records centres around establishing whether the child is Gillick competent.

In this case, as Patient A has already had an appointment with a GP without her mother present and subsequently been issued with a prescription, it would seem reasonable to conclude that the child has been deemed Gillick competent. By choosing to attend her appointment alone when in the past she has been accompanied by her mother, and her subsequent unwillingness to tell her mother what the prescription is for, would suggest that she wants to keep details of the consultation private.

The GP should explain to Mrs B that her child is mature enough to understand the consequences of making her own medical decisions and, as she has indicated that on that basis, keep Patient A’s medical records confidential.

Learning points

  • As children grow older and become competent to make their own decisions about treatment, they also become entitled to confidentiality about that treatment. Be aware that Gillick competent children may visit the surgery alone to talk about issues they want keeping confidential (such as contraception) but may still visit with a parent with other conditions.
  • Be aware that if a patient is accompanied, they may still not want their companion to know all their details, ie, the patient hasn’t given consent for the relative/friend to see all their personal information. Ensure all computer screens are positioned so that others in the consultation room are not able to read what is written on screen.

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