Medical Q&As

The pill

What age do you have to be to get a prescription for the pill? A doctor told me it was 18 years.

This is a very grey area and not at all as clear-cut as you have been led to believe. Many GPs prescribe the pill for young women between 16 and 18 years. A further group of doctors are prepared to prescribe the pill for young women below 16 years. They operate under a legal precedent established in the English House of Lords, which has become known as the Gillick Principle, Gillick being the name of the mother who took the case. The crucial elements of the judgement are as follows: 1.The girl should understand the advice. 2.The doctor should be unable to persuade the girl to inform her parents or to allow the doctor to do so. 3.Sexual intercourse is likely to take place regardless of the provision of contraception. 4.The health of the child would be likely to suffer without contraception. 5.The child's best interests would be served by the provision of contraception without parental consent. This matter has never been tested in an Irish court but those who follow the above guidelines believe they are practicing in a manner that could withstand legal challenge.