Medical confidentiality in sex education, contraception or in cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) must be guaranteed if minors so desire, even in relation to their parents.
These are the guidelines of the National Council of Ethics for Life Sciences (CNECV), published in July. “At the outset, one might think that parents have access and the right of access to all information concerning minors, those under 18 years of age”, he began by explaining to the Public the president of this body, Maria do Céu Patrão Neves.
But “what happens, and which is already enshrined in Portuguese law, is that there are specific situations, such as sexual health, in which the confidentiality between health professionals and young people is effectively guaranteed”pointed out the professor of Ethics.
“If young people who start their active sex life and need, for example, contraceptives, do not have the guarantee of confidentiality when reaching a health professional, they will avoid this contact. That is why our law provides for these exceptions, to safeguard the sexual health of young people and even to prevent early pregnancy, which as a rule is unwanted”, continued the official.
in case of STD, the same thing happens. “Yes, if the person has, for example, gonorrhea, candidiasis, syphilis or AIDS, it is good to go to treatment with complete security and total confidentiality”, said the jurist André Dias Pereira, vice-president of the CNECV.
“The interest of confidentiality is to make these young people go to the health system without fear. What you want to avoid is that people don’t go to the doctor for fear that the father or mother will know and then they may have problems at home”, he stressed.
For Maria do Céu Patrão Neves, “the fundamental issue is that if a young person does not have the guarantee of confidentiality, he does not contact health professionals”. “Parents believe that because their son or daughter is under 18 they have the right to know everything that concerns their children. And it’s not true,” she underlined.
In the case of a Voluntary termination of pregnancy (IVG), the minimum age to have access to the procedure is 16 years old and other conditions are not required, as mentioned in the document. In this area “the direct therapeutic relationship between the health professional and the adolescent must also be respected”.
Exceptions to the rule are also cases of addictive behavior (such as the use of drugs or alcohol), psychological or psychiatric interventions and responses to questionnaires or psychological assessment tests in which confidentiality between the patient and the physician is also ensured.