Irish Independent – 22 March 2010
DOCTORS and healthcare workers must be given statutory protection when providing sexual-health advice and treat-ment to under 16-year-olds, the Government's legal advisory body has been told.
The call from the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) comes as the Law Reform Com- mission (LRC) is drawing up a final report on children, and their right to make decisions on medical treatment.
The LRC has proposed sweeping reforms, which would allow young people under the age of 17 to make their own medical and family planning decisions, without the consent of either parents or guardians.
The Crisis Pregnancy Agency, meanwhile, said that there was a need for guidelines for practitioners and health professionals working with young people who were likely to become sexually active.
It also pleaded for teenagers who engage in consensual sex not to be criminalised under any proposed changes to the law. Both recommendations have been made in detailed submissions to the LRC, which is now drawing up a final report.
In its detailed submission, the IFPA said there was "profound ambiguity" among health service providers and young people over access to contraception and sexual health services.
It said there was obvious conflict between the laws of the land and a health service provider's ethical obligation to provide care in the best interest of the client.
Research had confirmed that a "substantial minority" of teenagers had sex under the current age of consent, according to the Crisis Pregnancy Agency.
Almost a third (31pc) of young men aged 18-24 and a fifth (22pc) of women reported they had sexual intercourse before the age of 17.
"Findings suggest that the vast majority of underage sexual activity is consensual sex among peers," the agency said.