Adolescents' knowledge of and attitudes toward Minnesota laws concerning adolescent medical care

L Loertscher, P S Simmons
Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology 2006, 19 (3): 205-7

BACKGROUND: Healthcare delivery to adolescents involves consent to care, confidentiality, and reimbursement in attendance to patients' medical problems. State laws address the medical care of minors with respect to privacy and autonomy. This study was conducted to determine adolescents' knowledge and attitudes toward the laws in their state, Minnesota, that influence their medical care. This information may guide health care providers in their education of adolescent patients, as well as advise future legislation on the healthcare of minors.

METHODS: Written questionnaires were administered to 636 9(th) through 12(th) grade students in required classes at the three public high schools in Rochester, MN, providing a representative sample of approximately fifty participants from each of the four grades. Results from the sixteen-question, anonymous survey were compiled to calculate an overall median knowledge score. Median scores were also reported by individual question, policy category, gender, grade, and socioeconomic status. Adolescent opinion was scored on a system in which +1 signified a "good law," 0 "neither a good nor bad law," and -1 a "bad law." These opinion scores were used to determine adolescents' attitudes by category as well as an overall positive, negative, or neutral opinion toward the laws.

RESULTS: 594(93.4%) students returned surveys. Adolescents obtained a median score of 31.3% (range, 0-100%) correct on a knowledge test. Opinion score was positive, with a median of + 0.38. 81.1% of adolescents reported that the laws in the survey had no effect on their lives.

CONCLUSIONS: These results indicate that adolescents are not knowledgeable of Minnesota laws regarding their medical care. Overall opinion of the existing laws is positive, particularly of those laws that protect minor consent. Most adolescents feel that these laws have not affected their lives. Low knowledge and a lack of a sense of impact from these laws indicate a need for clinicians to educate patients and their families about the legal aspects of adolescent medical care. These results are particularly relevant at a time when changes to current minor health care legislation are under consideration.

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