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The legal situation of a physician when parents refuse treatment on behalf of a minor patient



Introduction: Consent to or refusal of medical treatment is one of a patient’s basic rights. Medical law in this matter includes special rules regarding minors. This article comments on the legal regulations concerning the obligations and rights of physicians, parents and their dependents in the consent process.

Materials and methods: The research material primarily involved sources of Polish law, current judgments, and practical problems. The selected method relied on the analysis of legal acts. The role of guardianship courts that can override parental authority to protect the well-being of the child, has been subjected to analysis. The article contains an interpretation of the regulations in the context of specific clinical cases, such as a life-threatening emergency, so that the physician does not become exposed to civil, criminal or disciplinary liability.

Results: Consent to medical treatment is an elementary expression of patient autonomy. A statutory representative’s refusal for health service can be articulated in any way. The law does not define if it is necessary to obtain permission from both or just one of the parents. An exception to the rule of permission for medical intervention is to direct the case to the guardianship court in order to obtain the proper permits. This decision overrides parental authority. Authorized people can also give their permission for medical intervention after the treatment (ex-post consent).

Conclusions: The unclear regulations that describe the whole procedure cause difficulties in practice for doctors. It is also uncertain where the regulations of the family and guardianship code cross over parental authority. The current juridical state creates a risk to doctors of civil, penal and disciplinary penalties.

Frequenza di pubblicazione:
4 volte all'anno
Argomenti della rivista:
Medicine, Basic Medical Science, other, Clinical Medicine, Surgery, Public Health