Our legal system values independence, individualism, and personal choice, but we have been slow to cultivate these values in the arena of children's rights. Too much of the focus has been on efficiency: arbitrary cut-off ages provide a simple means for ascertaining a person's competence to exer- cise rights, but they are not always an accurate means to such an end. Spe- cifically, the law regarding mental health has struggled to reconcile parents' rights in custody and management of their children, the State's interest in raising members that will contribute to society, and competent children's rights of privacy and self-determination. In the context of access to alcohol and cigarettes, cut-off ages are sensible, but in the mental health context, these cut-offs are prone to invade basic constitutional rights.
Alexa E. Craig,
Diazepam Discord: A Competent Minor's Constitutional Right to Seek and Refuse Psychotropic Medication,
Available at: http://scholarship.law.nd.edu/jleg/vol41/iss1/3