As teenagers, it may be challenging to talk to your parents or guardians about sensitive issues. This is especially true when it comes to making serious decisions that impact our health and wellbeing. Usually adults are the ones who make these medical decisions for teens.

In the state of New York, young people can make certain health care decisions on their own. It is your right to keep these decisions confidential between you and your health care providers.

In some cases, the law allows teens to consent to and receive medical services without their parents being involved in the process. This is important because some young people may not seek care if their parents were involved and could put their health at greater risk.

This guide explains when and how you can make healthcare decisions for yourself. At the NYCLU, young people work directly with educators, school administrators and medical providers to ensure that all youth in New York have access to quality health care in our state. Read this guide to learn more about how to advocate for your own bodily autonomy and share this information with your peers.

Key Terms


Anyone 18 years of age or older.

Bodily Autonomy

The right for a person to decide what happens to their body without outside influence or pressure.


Information that cannot be shared. It is a legal requirement that certain information is kept confidential and not shared with any third party, including parents.

Informed Consent

Making a decision about your health when you fully understand your medical condition, as well as the risks and benefits to receiving or not receiving medical services.


When a person stays overnight in a medical facility or treatment.


For the purposes of this guide, anyone under the age of 18. Often we use this term interchangeably with “youth” or “young person.”


A patient who receives medical treatment without having to stay overnight in a medical facility.


When your gender identity (how you feel) is different than what was assigned to you when you were born (girl/boy or sex assigned at birth).


Young people have the right to receive quality care from a provider regardless of your medical situation, immigration status, or whether you can pay for it.

Armed with the information in this guide, young people in New York can continue to raise awareness about minors’ rights to confidential health care and make sure that every young person can go to the doctor without fear or confusion. If you feel your rights have been violated, contact the NYCLU for help.

This information was taken from the NYCLU’s 2018 version of Teenagers, Health Care and the Law. For the complete guide, including references and endnotes, please go to https://www.nyclu.org/thl.


Edited by:

Aliyah Ansari, Teen Health Strategist

Jake Martinez, Director of Youth Programs

Members of the NYCLU’s Teen Activist Project: Jose Castillo, Aurelio Castro, Kangkhita Kaes, Dayra Morocho-Padilla, Julia Pavlides, and Vivian Wang

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