Are your children protected in case of a medical emergency?

Florida’s medical consent laws were designed to protect patients from receiving medical treatment  they do not want, and to protect doctors and hospitals who must sometimes make split-second decisions during medical emergencies.  However, an untoward consequence of these laws is that they may act to block children’s access to medical care because a minor child cannot give consent for their own medical treatment.  Suppose, for example, a child goes on a camping trip with her friend’s family, and the child suffers an injury that requires immediate medical treatment.  If the doctor is unable to get in touch with the child’s parents, and the friend’s parents have not been authorized to give medical consent, there could be a delay in the child’s receiving medical treatment.  Under the law, a doctor or hospital must obtain informed consent in order to treat the child.

The Florida legislature recently amended the statute which addresses who may consent to medical treatment of a minor.  Under the prior version of the law, the only persons who could give consent for the child to receive medical treatment were a parent (or guardian), stepparent, certain immediate family members, or a person possessing power of attorney to provide medical consent for the child.  In an effort to broaden access to medical care for children, the legislature removed the “power of attorney” provision and created the Health Care Surrogate for a Minor.

A parent can create a “Designation of Health Care Surrogate for a Minor” document designating a competent adult to serve as a surrogate to make health care decisions for the child.  The health care surrogate can be a trusted friend, family member or other care giver.  The health care surrogate can be authorized to perform other functions in addition to giving consent for the child to receive medical care, such as: completing any consent forms on behalf of the parent; accessing and authorizing the release of the child’s medical records to other doctors; and authorizing the child’s admission to or transfer from a hospital or other facility.  A parent who is going out of town for an extended period of time may use the “Designation of Health Care Surrogate for a Minor” document to authorize the person caring for the child to pick up the child from school or daycare, and to generally provide food and shelter and make decisions regarding the child’s day to day activities.

As parents, we want to know that our children are protected even if an accident were to occur.  A Designation of Health Care Surrogate for a Minor is a fast and easy method to insure that your child will be able to receive medical care in your absence without any delay.  An Estate Planning attorney is the best person to offer advice and instruction on how to obtain a Designation of Health Care Surrogate for a Minor.