She is not 18; can she provide informed consent?

March 2, 2002

Jane, a very mature 17-year-old adolescent, presents to Dr. Jones forremoval of a facial nevus. Dr. Jones discusses the risk/benefit ratio ofsuch an excision. In the course of the discussion, he determines that sheis working a full-time job and lives with her boyfriend at home with herparents. She signs a standard consent form. Dr. Jones does not realize thatshe is 17; he did not ask. Ultimately she is not happy with the scar andwishes to sue her dermatologist. The basis of her suit is that at age 17she was not able to provide informed consent. Dr. Jones is aware that, asa general rule, a patient must be 18 years of age to provide informed consent.However, he contends that Jane was highly intelligent, articulate and hada better understanding of the procedure than some 19 year olds might have.Can Jane, as an adolescent, give informed consent?