PENNSYLVANIA - CONSENT ISSUES

January 1, 2008

Pennsylvania 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 or Pregnant Minors

35 P.S. § 10101

B. Pregnancy, Venereal Disease or Other Reportable Diseases

Any minor may give effective consent for medical and health services to determine the presence of or to treat pregnancy, venereal disease and other reportable diseases and the consent of no other person shall be necessary.

35 P.S.§ 10103

C. Drug Use or Dependency

A minor who suffers from the use of a controlled or harmful substance may give consent to furnishing of medical care or counseling related to diagnosis or treatment. The consent of the parents or legal guardian of the minor shall not be necessary to authorize medical care or counseling related to such diagnosis or treatment. The consent of the minor shall be valid and binding as if the minor had achieved his majority.

71 P.S. § 1690.112

D. Blood Donation

Any person of the age of seventeen years or over shall be eligible to donate blood in any voluntary and noncompensatory program without the necessity of obtaining parental permission or authorization.

35 P.S. § 10001

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

Emancipation is an act by which a parent relinquishes the right to custody and is relieved of the duty to support the child. Generally, emancipation can occur upon a child's marriage, induction into the military service, by court order based on the child's best interests, or by the attainment of the appropriate age. Attaining the age of majority, which is 18 years of age in Pennsylvania, is evidence of emancipation. However, under Pennsylvania law, there is no fixed age when emancipation occurs; it does not occur automatically on reaching age of majority.

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.

40 P.S. § 1303.504

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. Any conversations which address these issues should also be documented within the patient's medical records.

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

No person shall be compelled to submit to any medical or dental examination or treatment when the person or the parent or guardian of the person, if a minor, objects to the examination or treatment on religious grounds. That exemption shall not be granted if facts exist under which the exemption constitutes a present substantial menace to the health of other persons exposed to contact with the untreated person.

24 P.S. § 14-1419

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