Your rights at the doctor

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How do I see a doctor without my parents?

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

While you can see a doctor without your parents or guardians, a doctor can only give you medical treatment (eg prescribe you medication) in certain circumstances. The requirements depend on how old you are, as set out in the table below:

How old are you? What must happen before a doctor can give you medical treatment without your parents or guardians knowing?
You are 16 years or older You must consent to the medical treatment. Before you can consent to medical treatment, a doctor is required to explain the medical advice they have given you, the consequences of any treatment, and any alternative treatments that may be available.
You are under 16 years old Two things must happen:

  • you must consent to the medical treatment – before you can consent to medical treatment, a doctor is required to explain the medical advice they have given you, the consequences of any treatment, and any alternative treatments that may be available; and
  • two doctors who have examined you decide that you understand what the treatment involves and any consequences or risks of the treatment, and consider that the treatment is best for your health and wellbeing.  

When deciding whether to give you medical treatment, a doctor might consider your age and maturity, how serious the treatment is, whether you understand the treatment and risks (for example, side effects and complications), and your ability to appreciate the wider consequences of the treatment (for example, effects on your family and any long-term emotional impact).

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:

      • you are under 18 and your doctor thinks you are being sexually, physically or emotionally abused or neglected, they must notify the Department for Child Protection;
      • you have a certain condition, infectious disease or blood bone virus (for example, chlamydia, HIV, malaria, food poisoning or syphilis) your doctor must notify the South Australian Chief Public Health Officer; or
      • 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 require emergency medical treatment. If you are under 16 years old, your parent or guardian must consent to the treatment if possible. However, the law treats your health and well-being as the most important thing, and if your parent or guardian refuses to give their consent to the medical treatment or they are unavailable to provide this consent, the doctor may decide to treat you if they think it is in the best interests of your health and well-being.

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[6] 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.  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 donator 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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