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Schuyler Bright: The age of 12 is too young for medical consent

Schuyler Bright | Other Voices

California State Senate Bill 866 (Weiner) would drop the age of consent for medical treatment without parental consent to 12 — just 12!

It is scheduled for a vote Monday in the Assembly.

Most parents care about their child’s health and safety and want the best for their child. Not everyone agrees about the merits of vaccines, especially the new mRNA technology for COVID-19. But all parents are legally and financially responsible for medical issues that arise for their child.



As per the federal Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act and the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, vaccine providers have no liability for death or any injuries directly caused by the administration of a vaccine.

If a parent does not know that a medical treatment such as a vaccine was given to their child and the child suffers an adverse reaction, this may prevent or delay critical medical treatment. And parents would be responsible for whatever costs may arise, including, sadly, the loss of their child.



In considering whether a 12 year old is able to make a decision, which may have long-lasting, if not permanent, repercussions, it is important to have a cursory understanding of brain development.

A Dutch study that specifically focuses on developmental and neuroscientific aspects around medical decisions for youth finds that some minors may actually be mature enough to make some medical decisions, but that most require a supportive, unemotional environment that does not play into their rapidly developing rewards system.

Peer pressure, lack of self-regulation, and rewards sway adolescent brains from 12 to 24 years of age because of significant brain development during this time. With donuts, beer, and lottery tickets offered to incentivize people to take the COVID-19 shot, adolescents will likely not make this decision with considerations of consequences that may last far into the future.

In 2021, thousands of California children were given COVID-19 vaccines in school without parental consent, even though the emergency use authorization requires every effort to contact parents, until judicial rulings forced school boards to stop the mandate. SB 866 would make this legal in the future.

If a child were to consent to this or future procedures without parental knowledge, this breaches the sacred parent-child bond creating a secret between the health-care provider and child, leaving the parent oblivious.

Minors may also not know their family medical history, so if their parent knows and has not shared this with their child, they may be prime candidate for an allergic or other adverse reaction that will be an expensive burden borne by parents and may cost the child his or her life.

Additionally, if 12-plus year old minors have the right to consent to vaccines without their parent’s input, then they should also have the right to decline vaccines without their parent’s input.

Why should it be uni-directional? And by that reasoning, why shouldn’t a 12 year old have the ability to drive, marry, join the military, vote, smoke or drink?

Consenting to medical treatments such as a minor diabetic patient agreeing to perform their own insulin injections is different from consenting to a vaccine. Medical decisions are also different from mental health consent — of course teens should be able to consent to talk to a therapist. That is different from lying to one’s parents to get a shot that might kill them.

Some other countries’ age of consent for medical decisions is 16. If California is going to lower the age of consent, we should consider brain development. If anything, we should raise the age of consent for most things, including being held criminally responsible for any act until the age of 25 when (untraumatized or neglected) brains complete development.

SB 866 will be voted on Monday. I have called and emailed Assembly members my stance. Have you?

Schuyler Bright lives in Nevada City.

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