Date Published: 19 October 2005

UK doctors back sexual health campaign to protect young people's rights

Health News from the United Kingdom (UK).

UK Doctors' leaders are supporting the Brook's1 campaign ' Wise Up! Your rights on sexual health', launched today [19 October] highlighting the current threat to young people's rights to confidential sexual health advice.

New guidance, which is already being used in some areas, demands mandatory reporting by health professionals of all sexual activity amongst young people under the age of 16 years. This has led to many doctors contacting the BMA for further direction in dealing with their patients who are under sixteen. Doctors are concerned that the confidential relationship with their patients is at risk.

Dr Michael Wilks, Chairman of the BMA's Ethics Committee, said today:

"The BMA is backing Brook's campaign as we are extremely concerned about guidance that could threaten the trust young people have in doctors. Although confidentiality is not absolute, and can be breached where there is a risk of serious harm, mandatory reporting of non-abusive relationships threatens the trust that underpins the relationship between doctors and patients. This will deter young people from seeking medical care to reduce risks of pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. Only where there is trust do young people talk sufficiently openly for health professionals to ensure that their health needs are met, enabling conversations to start that identify abuse where it occurs."

He added:

"Remove this trust and young people refuse to access services, thereby damaging their interests. Clearly the younger or more vulnerable the individual, the greater the need for vigilance. Where there is a risk of harm, doctors need to act swiftly to ensure that young people are protected. It is vital however that health professionals have the discretion to act in the best interests of young people. If the goal of mandatory reporting is to identify potential abuse the policy is self-defeating ? all young people, including those who are being abused will refuse to talk to health professionals. The BMA is opposed to blanket mandatory reporting and believes that doctors should follow professional guidance that requires decisions to be made on an individual basis."

Ref: 1 Brook is a sexual health charity for young people www.brook.org.uk.

Source(s): British Medical Association, UK
http://www.bma.org.uk

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