The Ontario legislature has shot down a private member’s bill that would have re1quired physicians to consult parents before providing medical treatment on children under age l6.

Titled Bill 9l, the action was put forward by Progressive Conservative MP Frank Klees (York-Mackenzie) as an amendment to the Health Care Consent Act (l996). The bill would require that except for emergency situations, physicians must attempt to consult a parent or guardian before administering a medical procedure on underage patients.

The bill was defeated in the house November 28 by a vote of 42-34. Under the Health Care Consent Act, teenaged patients can obtain abortions or contraceptives, or be treated for sexually transmitted diseases without the knowledge of the parents.

The only condition required by the act is that the health care practitioner determines the patient is capable of making a decision.

In defending his proposed amendment, Klees said it is crucial that parents be involved in decisions regarding the medical treatment of their children. “Let’s not contribute to the alienation of parent from child by making it so easy for children to go their own way,” Klees said in the Legislature November 28. “Let’s encourage them, through this act, to have dialogue, to enter into discussion with their parents on important issues facing them.

Avoiding treatment

Opponents of the bill including former Health Minister Jim Wilson, argued that parental disclosure requirements would prevent some teens from seeking treatment, especially for sexually transmitted diseases, crisis pregnancies or other reproductive health areas.

They said teens from dysfunctional families or in abusive situations might not seek medical treatment if they knew their parents would be consulted.

Liberal MPP Elinor Caplan introduced statements from medical associations describing the Klees amendment as dangerous legislation.

According to a November 25 statement by the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons, Bill 9l “is retrogressive legislation that would create havoc and limit access to birth control, treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, as well as pregnancy and abortion referrals.”

The college also criticizd the “lack of sensitivity” of the proposed bill. However Klees argued Bill 91 anticipated emergency and abusive situations. He said the bill would have allowed the Ontario Legislature to show its commitment to the family and to the relationship between parents and children.

Meanwhile, Campaign Life Coalition said Bill 91 would have been helped offset the “extremes” of the former new Democratic government’s health care consent legislation.

In a November 27 statement, Campaign Life suggested Bill 91 could have gone further.

“(Bill 91) does nothing to restore the right of parents to decide whether their child will receive a certain treatment, but only requires that they be notified that the treatment has been planned” said Campaign Life Coalition. “The child in question still has the final say.”