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Can a doctor treat a child without parental consent?

Medical malpractice lawsuits often deal with situations including birth injuries, surgical or treatment errors, failure to diagnose an illness or mistakes in prescriptions. It may be that parents wonder if Florida has laws covering emergency situations where a child needs treatment, and a parent's consent isn't available. What happens if something goes wrong in that situation?

Chapter 743 of the Florida Statues provides coverage for emergency medical care of a minor. It states, in part, that emergency medical care may be given to a minor child by a physician, paramedic, emergency medical technician or other emergency personnel because of an accident, acute illness, disease or other condition, without parental consent, if a delay in providing treatment would endanger the child's health or physical well-being. A physician must be properly licensed under Florida law and treatment must be given in a properly licensed hospital or college health service.

This law applies when consent of a parent or guardian can't be obtained because the child's condition is such that he or she isn't able to communicate the name of a parent, guardian or legal custodian, and the person bringing the child to the hospital doesn't know that information. If the responsible adult can't be reached by telephone at home or work, emergency treatment may be administered without consent. Hospital records, however, must show why consent wasn't given at the time treatment was initiated. These records must be made available to the child's parent, guardian or legal custodian if inspection of them is requested. The attending doctor is required to include in the record the medical reason why care or treatment was immediately necessary.

Civil litigation for liability relating to consent is barred as long as emergency medical care or treatment was rendered in accordance with acceptable medical practice standards. If something has gone wrong, a careful scrutiny of the circumstances will provide insight into any legal options that may be available.

Source: Florida Statutes, "Florida Statute 743.064," accessed May. 08, 2015

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