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Letter: Between You and Me (New York Times)

To the Editor:

Re “Guarding Privacy May Not Always Protect Patients” (18 and Under, July 12): A wealth of research shows that access to confidential reproductive health care benefits teenage patients. Although many minors voluntarily consult adult family members on questions about sexual health, others do not feel comfortable, or fear, doing so. New York’s confidentiality laws ensure young people will get the care they need.

Adolescent health providers are trained to evaluate young patients’ ability to give informed consent, to screen for child abuse and domestic violence, and to implement follow-up procedures that protect patients’ rights and health. Providers should not violate confidentiality laws based on a personal feeling that a particular case is “just too scary.” Rather, they should gather more information and seek help before making a decision about disclosure. Reporting a minor’s pregnancy to the authorities without establishing the facts necessary for reasonable suspicion of abuse or neglect violates legal and ethical guidelines and may endanger the patient.

Karyn Brownson, Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union’s Teen Health Initiative
Melissa Goodman, Senior Litigation and Policy Counsel for Reproductive Rights for the New York Civil Liberties Union

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