Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

This column reflects the opinion of the writer. Learn about the differences between a news story and an opinion column.

Dr. Crystal Pyrak: Idaho’s new parental consent law may cause unintended harm

Crystal Pyrak, M.D.

By Crystal Pyrak, M.D.

Welcome, summer! As families across Idaho gear up for outdoor adventures and quality time together, I’m compelled to address a significant legislative change that will impact pediatric health care access starting July 1. Senate Bill 1329, recently passed into law, introduces critical adjustments that warrant our attention and concern.

This new law primarily focuses on increasing parental involvement in minors’ health care decisions. While parental consent is undeniably crucial in certain medical situations, the broad scope of this legislation extends its impact across all health care providers who interact with minors, including physical therapists, counselors and chiropractors. This legislative breadth necessitates compliance from a wide array of health care professionals, not just doctors.

The repercussions for noncompliance with the law are severe, including potential jail time. This punitive measure has understandably instilled fear among health care providers, leading many to contemplate reducing or limiting services for minors altogether. Consequently, adolescents may experience a significant loss of autonomy in managing their health care decisions, previously acquired through practice and guidance from trusted health professionals.

Moreover, the law’s stringent requirements have had a chilling effect on community-oriented health care activities. Providers, fearful of legal liabilities stemming from inadequate parental consent, are increasingly withdrawing from volunteer services at events like sports games and educational gatherings. This withdrawal not only affects the availability of health care services but also diminishes valuable community interactions and support.

It’s also important to note that youth mental health and substance abuse screening is often most effective when a parent is not present. I encourage all parents to talk to your child’s physician about working together to ensure your child can receive supportive and effective mental health screening and services.

Recognizing the challenges posed by the new law, health care entities across Idaho are striving to streamline the parental consent process. Efforts are underway to ensure that parents are informed and empowered without unnecessary burdens or confusion. However, despite these efforts, the implementation of the law requires careful monitoring and flexibility from all stakeholders, including parents and health care providers.

It’s crucial for Idaho residents to remain vigilant about any negative impacts resulting from this new law. If you observe instances where minors are denied access to necessary health care services or if you notice a disruption in community health initiatives, I encourage you to engage with your legislators. While the legislation may be rooted in good intentions, any law that hampers patient-provider relationships or instills undue fear among health care providers risks causing unintended harm.

As we embark on a season of outdoor enjoyment and family bonding, let’s also stay informed and proactive about legislative changes that affect our health care system. Let’s work together to ensure that minors in Idaho continue to receive the care they need while fostering a supportive environment for health care providers to serve our communities effectively. By remaining attentive and advocating for thoughtful adjustments where necessary, we can uphold the well-being of our youngest citizens and the integrity of our health care system.

Crystal Pyrak, M.D., is a family physician practicing in Coeur d’Alene, and the board president of the Idaho Academy of Family Physicians. She is a graduate of the University of Washington’s WWAMI School of Medicine and completed her residency training in Idaho. She is also a parent and cares for many patients that are minors.