Hastings Women’s Law Journal


Cara D. Watts


Many children approaching the age of majority struggle with severe and sometimes terminal illnesses. Does such a minor possess a Fourteenth Amendment Due Process right to participate in medical decisions concerning her care, or is her fate left solely in the hands of her parents and the State? This Note examines the health care rights of minors and attempts to give a voice to children, a vast, silent population in this country, in the medical care context. After examining such fundamental cases as Belotti v. Baird, this Note finds numerous exceptions, crafted by the courts over several decades in a variety of contexts, to parental autonomy over minors. This Note uses those exceptions as a springboard for determining when a minor's wishes may prevail over those of her parents and the State in health care decisions. Ultimately, this Note concludes that there is room for a minor's voice in the medical care context. To assist courts in determining when a °minor may exercise her Fourteenth Amendment liberty interest in making her own health care decisions, this Note proposes a decisional tree that considers the treatment's effectiveness, the minor's chance of survival with or without the treatment, the potential effects of the treatment, and the minor's competence to make health care decisions. Finally, this Note applies the test to three real life situations.