Doctor can tell parent about teen’s pregnancy

Does my girlfriend’s doctor have to tell her mother if she is pregnant?  So my girlfriend had her physical exam.  She’s going again to have a blood & urine test but then the doctors will find out she is pregnant.  Can she do anything to avoid so the doctors don’t tell her parents the pregnancy results ? Btw that is part of the physical exam.  She is about to turn 17in a month. 

High Schooler in New Jersey

Dear High Schooler,

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) — which governs confidentiality of medical information — allows the doctor to tell a minor patient’s parent about the pregnancy.  Just because the law allows it does not mean that the doctor is required to divulge it however.   For example, if the patient’s mother might physically abuse her based upon knowing the information, the doctor can withhold it.  See HHS’s summary here.

New Jersey law also allows the doctor to keep the test results confidential.  Again, it does not require confidentiality.  If the doctor felt that the parent should be notified for the patient’s best interests, he or she could do that.  See New Jersey’s summary here.

Your girlfriend should talk with the doctor about whether her parents will be informed.  This is of course only a small part of dealing with the pregnancy.

Linda Riddell

About Linda Riddell

A published author and health policy analyst with 25 years’ experience, Linda Riddell's goal is to alleviate the widespread ailment of not knowing what your health plan can do for you.