If your child needs medical, dental or hospital services, the law requires you as a parent to give permission before treatment begins. Often parents have questions regarding the Minor Consent Law.
Q: What happens when my child needs medical attention and I cannot be reached?
A: In a true emergency, a doctor may begin treating your child without parental consent, if the delay in locating you may cause your child to lose a limb or life. However, if the situation is not life-threatening, the doctor cannot legally treat a minor until the parent or legal guardian has given consent.
Q: Is there anything I can do to authorize medical treatment in my absence?
A: Yes. When you know you will be hard to reach, give permission to another adult to authorize your child's medical treatment. Anyone over age 18 can be appointed by you to authorize your child's medical treatment. However, this authorization must be in writing.
A relative or friend may accompany a minor child and present a written statement signed by a parent (or in the case of divorce, the custodial parent) authorizing the relative or friend to consent to medical treatment. Such an authorization is acceptable.
Q: Must both parents give consent for a minor child to be treated?
A: No. Either parent may give consent for their minor child if the parents are not divorced. If the parents are separated, but have not completed court proceedings, then either parent may provide consent. If the parents are divorced, the parent who has legal custody or is the custodial or residential parent of the minor should give consent. If all reasonable attempts have been made to obtain consent from the custodial parent, and if the child is in need of medical treatment and a delay in care would result in an adverse outcome, the signature of the non-custodial parent may be obtained. In the event of shared parenting (i.e., both parents have legal custody), the signature of either parent will suffice.
Q: What about minors who are married or do not live at home?
A: A minor shall be considered "emancipated" if he or she has married, entered the armed services, becomes employed and self-subsisting, or has become independent from the care and control of his/her parent, guardian, or custodian.
Healthcare providers currently accept the consent of a minor parent if the minor parent is emancipated, or can be considered a "mature minor" under the "mature minor" doctrine. The mature minor doctrine is a judicial term used to describe minors who are considered to have the capacity to give consent. This doctrine requires the physician to make "mature minor" determinations on a case-by-case basis.
Q: Are there special circumstances when a minor may consent on his/her own?
A: Yes. There are special circumstances when minors may provide consent for treatment. A minor may consent:
- to an examination for the purpose of gathering physical evidence of an alleged sexual offense;
- for the diagnosis or treatment of any venereal disease by a licensed physician;
- for the diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician of any condition that it is reasonable to believe is caused by drug abuse, beer, or intoxicating liquor;
- to be given an HIV test for the diagnosis of AIDS or an AIDS-related condition.
Law You Can Use is a weekly consumer legal information column provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. This article was prepared by Renee Mallett, Esq., Patient Safety Director at The Ohio State University Medical Center.