FLORIDA - CONSENT ISSUES

March 18, 2008

Florida state laws and regulations that affect your medical practice

1. What are the requirements for parental consent in the case of the treatment of minors?

In general, the treatment of minor patients requires parental consent. (Persons eighteen (18) and older are considered adults, for the purposes of these regulations.) However, there are several exceptions to the requirement of parental consent, as follows:

A. Married Minors

A married minor may consent to his or her own medical treatment and surgery.

F.S.A. § 743.01

B. Unmarried, Pregnant Minors

An unmarried, pregnant minor may consent to medical and surgical care related to her pregnancy by a hospital, clinic, or physician. She cannot, however, consent to medical treatment for herself that is not related to her pregnancy.

An unmarried mother may consent to medical or surgical care for her child. She may not, however, consent to her own medical treatment.

F.S.A. § 743.065(1)

C. Sexually Transmissible Diseases

Minors may receive, without parental consent, examination for and treatment of sexually transmissible diseases. Information cannot be divulged directly or indirectly to the parents, including sending a bill to the parents.

F.S.A.§ 384.30

D. Maternal Health and Contraceptive Information and Services

Minors may receive, without parental consent, maternal health and contraceptive information and services of a nonsurgical nature only if the minors are married, have become parents, are pregnant or, in the opinion of the physician, would suffer probable health hazards if such services were not provided.

F.S.A. § 381.0051(5)

E. Termination of Pregnancy

Parents must be given 48 hours notice before an abortion procedure may be performed upon a minor. If notification in person or by phone is not possible after a reasonable effort has been made, the physician must send a letter by certified mail to the last known address of the parent or guardian. Notice is not required if a medical emergency exists in which case the physician may proceed without giving notice but must document reasons for the medical necessity.

F.S.A. § 390.01114

F. Substance Abuse Treatment

A physician and other providers, including psychologists, social workers and therapists may provide substance abuse services to a minor without the patient’s parent’s consent.

F.S.A. § 397.601(4)

G. Outpatient Emotional Crisis Services

A child 13 years old or older can receive, without parental consent, mental health diagnostic and evaluative services or individual psychotherapy, group therapy or counseling.

F.S.A. § 394.4784

2. For purposes of obtaining informed consent, when is a minor considered emancipated?

18 is the age of majority in Florida for all purposes, including consent to medical treatment. In addition, a minor age 16 or older may petition the court for emancipation. If the court determines that emancipation is in the minor’s best interest, an order shall be entered giving the minor the status of an adult for purposes of all criminal and civil laws of the state and shall authorize the minor to exercise all of the rights and responsibilities of persons who are 18 years of age or older

F.S.A. § 743.07 and F.S.A. § 743.015

3. What is informed consent and when should it be obtained?

Generally, informed consent is given by a patient to a physician who has informed the patient of the following:

A. The illness;
B. The treatment, including the risks and any side-effects;
C. Treatment alternatives; and
D. Likelihood of success.

Informed consent is a means to ensure that a patient is educated and informed about the decisions the patient is making regarding his or her treatment. Thus, the consent given should reflect the understanding the patient has concerning his or her own well-being. Further, informed consent is also a means to safe-guard against physicians who may otherwise be accused of substituting their judgment for that of their patient, perhaps in the interests of time and efficiency.

4. Should a physician have a standard written form to fulfill all informed consent requirements?

No. Generally, it would not be advisable to have a standard written form to address blanket issues. Written informed consent, specific to certain patients and their circumstances, is recommended. It is always important that patients be informed of their situation, their condition, their options and their alternatives as that is the purpose of informed consent. This information should provide the patient with a general understanding of the substantial risks and hazards inherent in the proposed treatment of procedures. Any conversations which address these issues should also be documented within the patient's medical records.

F.S.A. § 766.103

5. What obligations does a physician have if a patient refuses to consent to treatment based on religious grounds?

Florida requires that a health care provider comply with the wishes of a patient to refuse medical treatment unless ordered to do otherwise by a court of competent jurisdiction. When a health care provider, acting in good faith, follows the wishes of a competent and informed patient to refuse medical treatment, the health care provider is acting appropriately and cannot be subjected to civil or criminal liability.

Copyright © Kern Augustine Conroy and Schoppmann, P.C. Used with permission.

Updated 2008