Emergency care for kids without parental consent is moving in Legislature; some questions remain
Florida Phoenix | By Isaac Morgan | February 10, 2022
A proposal to expand the ability for doctors to perform emergency care on minors in a variety of settings — and without parent consent — continues to gain traction in the 2022 legislative session.
But questions have been raised about how the legislation, SB 1114, would impact a 2021 law related to parents’ rights.
That law, mentioned by state Sen. Bobby Powell during a Senate Healthy Policy committee meeting Thursday, is related to the Parents’ Bill of Rights, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in November of 2021. It’s been touted as an expansion to allow parents to decide what their school-aged kids learn and whether they follow COVID-19 safety measures.
Powell questioned whether SB 1114 would conflict with parental rights concerning emergency care for their kids.
“Current law limits liability to those who are rendering medical care treatment,” said Powell, a Democrat representing part of Palm Beach County. “However, does this expansion conflict with the parental bill of rights that was established in 2021?”
State Sen. Jennifer Bradley, the bill sponsor, responded: “Those common law exceptions that you just referenced confer civil immunity. They are not situations in which a physician is allowed to provide care without written consent. I do think this clarification is needed to make sure that we still have that civil immunity and make sure physicians are able to provide care even outside of the hospital setting.”
Bradley explained during the committee meeting that she is pushing efforts to address situations where a minor is seriously hurt, such as at a sports game, and would need emergency medical treatment by a licensed doctor present.
“Obviously it’s inconceivable that any parent would want a physician to hold back from furnishing lifesaving aide simply because a written consent couldn’t be obtained,” said Bradley, a Republican representing several Northeast Florida counties. “This bill will extend that exception to outside the hospital setting.”
An identical bill in the Florida House, sponsored by state Rep. Ralph Massullo, has moved to the full state House for a potential vote.
Right now, parental consent is required for a physician to provide emergency medical care to a minor outside of a hospital or college health service, according to a legislative analysis. Consent also is required for emergency medical services personnel to perform emergency care outside of a what’s called a prehospital setting, like at an accident scene or in an ambulance.
But the SB 1114 bill and its House version, goes much further: It would allow “physicians and emergency medical personnel to provide emergency medical care or treatment to a minor at any location without the consent of the minor’s parents,” according to the legislative analysis.
The concept of parental consent is so important because, “It is well settled that the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children is perhaps the oldest of the recognized fundamental liberty interests protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” according to the analysis.
In the bill, there were no examples of locations where a licensed physician would be permitted to render emergency care to minors, prompting Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book to inquire about locations covered by the bill.
“This will allow lifesaving, important medical aide to be given on a roadside if there was an accident, on a soccer field, wherever the physician might be,” Bradley said. “We don’t want to limit that just to the hospital.”
Meanwhile, several organizations are in support of the bill, including the Florida Medical Association, Florida Osteopathic Medical Association and the Florida Academy of Family Physicians.