Can parents force a 16-year-old teenager to undergo treatment for depression or other medical conditions?


Teenage boy not wanting treatment for depression

The short answer to this is No.  Unless you are deemed incompetent to make your own decisions, the Health Care Consent Act, 1996 says you make your own decisions regarding health care.  In fact, section 4 of that act says you are presumed to have capacity (regardless of your age) and section 10 says that a health care practitioner cannot administer treatment unless either you consent, or the practitioner has reason to believe that you do not have the mental competence to understand the treatment and its risks and benefits.  (Here is the law that says that.)


If you are at risk to harm yourself or others, then the Mental Health Act does provide a way for you to be hospitalized and medicated, whether you agree or not - particularly if your mental health impedes your ability to understand the situation.


You may want also want to read this article and this article that both talk about the right of children and teenagers to direct their own medical treatment.   It is a right the many health care practitioners, who often treat children, take very seriously. 


All of that said, you should have a serious discussion with your therapist and doctor about the benefits (and risks) of medication.  There are several good medications for treating depression that can help make the pain go away and that may not have side effects that you would worry about.  It is, however, your right to be able to make an informed decision as long as your are capable of doing so.


John Schuman, and the other human rights lawyers at his firm, have a lot of experience with children’s rights cases, including cases about the ability of children, teenagers, and other people to decide whether they receive treatment or not.  Those are called “capacity cases” and the process can be a little different for children then for adults because a child’s parents or caregivers, or a  children’s aid society can also use the provisions of the Child and Family Services Act, in addition to the provisions of the Mental Health Act, to get a court order requiring a child under the age of 16 to receive treatment.


If this sounds like a situation that applies to you then you may want to contact a good lawyer to assist you and fight for your rights.  You can call the number at the top of this page, or use the form below, to contact John Schuman and the other lawyers at his firm that assist people (adults and children) in these types of cases.


© John P. Schuman 2014