Your rights at the doctor

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How do I see a doctor without my parents?

There are no laws that prevent you from visiting a doctor without your parents or guardians. However, if you plan on going alone, you should contact the doctors’ office beforehand to confirm you want the appointment to be kept private.

While a doctor can attend an appointment with you without your parents or guardians, a doctor can only give you medical treatment (for example, prescribe you medication) if you give informed consent. Before you can give your consent to medical treatment, the doctor must make sure you understand the medical advice they have given you, the consequences of any treatment, and any alternative treatments that may be available.

When can I consent to medical treatment?

Whether you can consent to medical treatment depends on how old you are and how serious the treatment is relative to your level of maturity. Generally:

  • if you are over 16 years old, you can consent to medical treatment without your parents or guardians;
  • if you are over 14 years old, you may consent to your own medical treatment provided you adequately understand and appreciate the nature and consequences of the medical procedure or treatment. However if you are 14 or 15 years old, a doctor may still wish to obtain the consent of your parent or guardian unless you object to this;
  • if you are 14 years or younger, the consent of your parents or guardians to medical treatment is normally needed.

How do I keep my medical treatment private?

A doctor is someone you can talk to and trust. A doctor is usually required to maintain confidentiality, meaning they are not allowed to tell other people about your appointment or what you discussed. However, in some situations where a doctor is worried about the health and safety of you or others, they might have to tell another person or government authority about your appointment. For example if:

  • your doctor thinks you are at risk of significant harm (for example if you are at risk of being sexually, physically or emotionally abused or ill treated, living in a household where there have been incidents of domestic violence or you are at risk of serious psychological harm), they must notify the Department of Family and Community Services;
  • you have an infectious disease (for example, HIV or syphilis) your doctor or other health practitioner must notify the CEO of the hospital who in turn must notify the Secretary of the Ministry of Health;
  • your doctor thinks you might seriously hurt yourself or others, they may decide to warn that person, your parents or the police.

Emergency medical treatment

Sometimes you might need emergency medical treatment. A medical practitioner is permitted to carry out medical treatment on you if you are aged under 16 without your consent or the consent of your parents or guardians if they believe it is necessary to treat you to save your life or prevent serious damage to your health.

How do I pay for medical treatment?

Most of the time simple visits to the doctor will be paid for by Medicare. However, depending on the doctor and medical treatment you have you might need to pay a fee.

What is Medicare?

Medicare is a government service that pays some or all of the cost for Australian citizens, Australian permanent residents and other persons living in Australia to receive certain medical services (like visits to the doctor, dentist or hospital). In order to use Medicare you must have a Medicare card. Information about Medicare cards can be found here.

Can I get my own Medicare card?

How do I pay using Medicare?

Not all medical services will be paid for by Medicare. You should ask about payment options before you make your appointment with your doctor. In particular, you should ask:

  • “Does the doctor bulk bill?”
  • “Will I have to pay a gap?”
Bulk billing When your doctor accepts your Medicare card as payment for the appointment.
Gap The left over amount that you have to pay when Medicare does not cover the whole cost of the appointment.

If the doctor does not bulk bill, you may need to make a Medicare claim to get a refund after your appointment. Most refunds are paid directly into the bank account that is connected to your Medicare card. More information about claiming can be found here.

Medicare claim When your doctor charges you directly for the appointment and Medicare gives you a refund later.

Will my parents know I’ve been to the doctor by using my Medicare card?

Your Medicare history can be accessed online through www.my.gov.au. If you are 14 years or over, you can create your own myGov account to be able to access this information.

If you are listed on your parent’s or guardian’s Medicare card:

  • if you are aged 14 or over, no one else can see your Medicare claim history online by logging into their myGov account; or
  • if you are under the age of 14, your parents or guardians can see limited details about your Medicare claim history online via their myGov account which will include information regarding the date your saw a doctor, amount paid and the rebate given by Medicare.

You or your parents may also have registered for a My Health Record. If you live in the Nepean Blue Mountains a My Health Record will have been automatically created for you unless you opted out prior to 27 May 2016. A My Health Record will contain certain health information you or your parents choose to include in it. It may include details of claims made for Medicare benefits, claims for pharmaceutical benefits, organ donor status and immunisations administered until the age of 20. Anyone with parental responsibility for you can apply to have access to your My Health Record. When you turn 18 years old, this person will automatically lose the ability to access your My Health Record. More information on My Health Records can be found here.

Seeking Medical Treatment on your own – a Checklist

  1. If you have a Medicare card, find a Doctor who ‘bulk bills’ and book an appointment. You can search for bulk-billing doctors here.
  2. Ring your doctor to:
    • confirm you will be attending without your parents;
    • confirm you want the appointment kept private; and
    • ask about payment options.
  3. Attend the appointment.
  4. Make sure you communicate openly with your doctor and listen to their advice.
  5. Depending on the reason why you see your doctor it might be a good idea to take some time after the appointment to think about your treatment options before you make any commitments.

Information on different types of medical treatment

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