North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
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March 14, 1984

Subject:

Health; Consent for Sickle Cell Testing By a Minor; G.S. 90-21.2 and 90-21.5.

Requested By:

Margaret A. Dudley Deputy County Attorney Guilford County

Question:

May a minor consent to sickle cell testing for the purpose of determining whether the minor is likely to develop urinary tract infections during pregnancy?

Conclusion:

Yes.

This Office is informed that "(pre-natal) patients need to be tested for sickle cell trait because persons with the trait are more likely to develop urinary tract infections during pregnancy. . . . Pregnant women who have urinary tract infections are more likely to experience premature labor, and we would like to give these women monthly urine tests and treatment as needed. . . . The professionals in our maternity clinics are of the opinion that testing for the sickle cell trait/disease is essential to the provision of proper medical management of pregnancy. The purpose of sickle cell testing is no different than testing for blood sugar, hemoglobin levels, Rh factor, etc.; the purpose is simply to provide appropriate treatment."

A prior opinion of this Office to Dr. Sarah T. Morrow, dated May 21, 1980 (49 N.C.A.G. 181), concluded that "(to) provide genetic counseling to minors without (parental) consent would appear to be a violation of the common law principles governing the parent-child relationship and thus would leave the individual providing these services potentially vulnerable to the litigation." (Emphasis supplied) The conclusion was premised upon (i) the absence of genetic counseling from the four categories for which a minor may give effective consent under G.S. 90

21.5 and (ii) the failure of the definition in G.S. 90-21.2 to include counseling within the term "treatment."

In the present case, pregnancy is included within the conditions for which a minor may consent. Since sickle cell testing is necessary for the proper medical management of pregnancy, a minor may consent to such testing as part of the health services received for the pregnancy. Furthermore, in the present case, "laboratory or other diagnostic procedures," such as sickle cell testing, is included within the term "treatment" under G.S. 90-21.2.

Therefore, it is the opinion of this Office that G.S. 90-21.5 authorizes a minor to give effective consent for the performance of sickle cell testing as part of the medical treatment of the minor's pregnancy.

RUFUS L. EDMISTEN Attorney General

Robert R. Reilly Assistant Attorney General