Should parents have the power to okay drug tests for teens?

LAWMAKERS and paediatricians are dubious about a

non-binding motion in the Canary Islands to allow drug tests on teenagers, at the request of their parents.

The Canarian Parliament urged its regional government last week to include a drug test, when 14-year-old teenagers get their health check-up, should the parents request it.

According to the non-binding motion, this could be a significant, preventive measure. But do parents have the right to make their children have the test?

Paediatricians and lawyers argue that there are other,

less-aggressive approaches to the problem. But, in any event, they stress, a teenager’s consent is vital.

The motion was approved by 44 votes, with only six abstentions from anti-austerity party United Podemos.

The pro-arguments claimed that the average age teenagers begin to consume alcohol, tobacco and cannabis had fallen significantly, and that there was a need to step-up prevention within families and schools.

Among youngsters in the Canaries, it has been said, regular use of heroin, hallucinogens, amphetamines, cocaine and ecstasy is not generally perceived as particularly risky.

It made sense, then, to introduce blood and urine tests to provide a safety net for 14-year-olds, who could become involved in substance abuse.

“We were surprised by the news,” said Agustín Graffigna, President of the Canaries’ Primary Healthcare Paediatricians’ Association.

“There has been no referral to an assessment from the scientific community. Sending someone for analysis should be based on medical criteria, and not on the criteria of the parents.

“Making this test generally applicable is not a measure that has been addressed in any of the guidelines. There are other means of prevention, but this is not the right one. And, in practice, it would have to be with the consent of the minor.

“Otherwise, we would be invading their privacy with an aggressive examination, which is what analysis is.”

Department of Health sources state that they are unable to comment on the motion, because the wording has still not been finalised.

Félix Notario, from the Spanish Society of Adolescent Medicine, and a paediatrician at an Albacete clinic, believes the measures would not be effective, and that their introduction was simply a way for politicians to salve their own conscience.

“There’s no need for so many tests,” he said. “One out of four teenagers has consumed substances between the ages of 14 and 18. And if we wait for a test to tell us that our 14-year-old is taking drugs, then we’re coming in late!”

Paediatrician María Eugenia Angulo, who spent 16 years in primary healthcare and now works in a Las Palmas health centre in Gran Canaria, said: “We have a duty to inform the patient.

“Not long ago, a boy of 12 didn’t want to be examined. I tried to convince him but he refused, and I couldn’t force him to do it.”




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