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What Turning 18 Means for Your Health Care

You will be turning 18 soon. This means you will be a legal adult in most U.S. states. After you turn 18, you will be making your own medical decisions unless you choose someone else to do so. 

When you turn 18

Your medical team will talk directly to you after you turn 18. They will ask for your agreement on medical decisions. “Consent” is another name for this type of agreement.

Your family or other caregivers can be involved and help you make decisions. They can give you advice. You can ask them to help you think through your choices. But you get to make the final medical decision.

When you come to St. Jude after turning 18

Your parents or other caregivers make medical decisions and sign forms for you before you turn 18. After you turn 18, staff at St. Jude will ask you to update these forms. This is because you are now responsible for your care.

We will ask you to make decisions about:

  • Consent for treatment and research
  • Who we share information with
  • Advance care planning and a health care agent

Consent

You will meet with someone from St. Jude Patient Registration after you turn 18. This meeting happens before you receive any more health care, including blood tests.

The Registration staff member will ask you to read and sign a form to keep receiving treatment at St. Jude. They also will ask you to read and sign other documents.

Ask the Registration staff member any questions you have during this meeting. You should only sign after you understand everything.

If you are taking part in research studies, you will meet with someone from each study to complete a new consent form. Your parents or other caregivers signed this form when you first agreed to take part in the study. But you need to sign it after you turn 18.

You can still talk with others about your medical decisions, including:

  • Parents
  • Caregivers
  • Other family members
  • Friends

You might want to talk about who can help you make decisions. But you don’t have to share your medical information with anyone.

Sharing information

You can decide who sees or is told about your medical information after you turn 18. This is your right under a U.S. law called the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA.

You will need to sign a form to allow St. Jude to share information with anyone, even your parents. This form is called an Authorization for the Release of Information or “authorization form.” You can also give another person access to MyChart in a separate account.

You also need to give St. Jude the name and contact information of any person or group that can see your information. For example, you might want to a doctor’s office to be able to see your information. We automatically will provide some information to your home doctor’s office if you give us their name.

Advance care plans and health care agents

We will ask if you want an advance care plan and a health care agent.

An advance care plan gives you the opportunity to decide what health care you do or do not want if you cannot speak for yourself in the future. It is sometimes called an advance directive.

A health care agent is a trusted person who can make decisions for you if you cannot make them.

In Tennessee, you also may have a health care agent make decisions even if you are able to make them yourself. For example, you might not want to make certain decisions for yourself.

Your social worker can help you decide if you want a health care agent to do this. They can also help you fill out the forms to have a health care agent and an advance care plan.

St. Jude MyChart

We will ask if you want to start using St. Jude MyChart when you turn 18.

This is a way to see your appointment schedule and some of your medical records online. You can also send non-urgent messages to your care team through St. Jude MyChart.

Questions?

If you have questions about what happens when you turn 18, please ask your doctor, nurse, or social worker.

If you are a parent or caregiver concerned about your child’s ability to decide, talk to their doctor or social worker.


Reviewed: September 2022