Thursday, January 12, 2006

MINORS CONSENTING TO THEIR OWN MEDICAL CARE (FLORIDA)

In a recent article in the Florida Bar Journal, Ann Bittinger summarizes the basic rules of when a minor can consent to his or her own medical care (or the care of the minor's own children).

WHO IS A MINOR? A person under the age of 18 who is not emancipated is a minor. A minor is emancipated under common law if financially independent and maintains a residence away from his or her parents. A minor is statutorily emancipated if a circuit court removes the disability of nonage.

GENERAL RULE. A minor cannot consent to his or her own medical treatment. A treating physician who does not obtain the proper consent of a parent or legal representative could incur liability, and may lose his or her license.

PREGNANCY ISSUES. A pregnant minor may consent to medical and surgical care relating to the pregnancy (but not to nonpregnancy medical care items).

MINOR PARENTS. A minor giving birth to a child still cannot give consent to her own medical treatment, but strangely enough, can give consent in regard to the medical care of her child.

EMERGENCIES. If statutory requirements are met, a physician may provide medical treatment to a minor in an emergency. These requirements generally relate to either the inability to determine who the parent or legal guardian is, or the parent or guardian cannot be located immediately.

MISCELLANEOUS SITUATIONS WHERE A MINOR CAN PROVIDE THEIR OWN MEDICAL CONSENT:
-Examination and treatment of sexually transmissible diseases
-Maternal health and contraceptive information and services of a nonsurgical nature, if the minors are married, have become parents, are pregnant, or may otherwise suffer probable health hazards
-Substance abuse treatment
-If 13 or older, mental health diagnostic and evaluative services or individual psychotherapy, group therapy, counseling, or other forms of verbal therapy from a licensed mental health professional.

Bittiner, Ann, Legal Hurdles to Leap to Get Medical Treatment for Children, The Florida Bar Journal/January 2006
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