Who Can Decide If Child Has Surgery When Parents Disagree

Serving Families Throughout Palm Beach Gardens

In May, a Florida appeals court rejected the argument that BOTH parents must consent before a child can undergo surgery. The ruling came stemmed from a case in Escambia County over a father protesting the removal of his child’s adenoids.

At the time of the case, Imad Angeli and his wife were going through divorce proceedings and had both agreed to share equal custody of their two children. Mrs. Angeli scheduled adenoid surgery for their youngest child but Mr. Angeli objected and contacted the surgeon to cancel the procedure.

Mrs. Angeli eventually rescheduled the surgery and informed the nursing staff that she and the child’s father had reached an agreement in regards to the procedure. Mr. Angeli denies ever consenting.

He filed a lawsuit against the physician and clinic that performed the procedure, alleging “battery and intentional interference with the parent-child relationship.”

An Escambia County judge first heard the case, and the ruling was upheld by 1st District Court of Appeals. The appeals court panel found that Florida state law only requires ONE parent (one legally authorized person) to give consent before a child undergoes a medical procedure. The court pointed out medical providers should not have to navigate parental disputes in regards to a child undergoing a surgical procedure.

The ruling specifically stated “The bottom line is that health care providers are not required to referee parental disputes about medical care for their minor children, and may render medical care or treatment upon the consent of only one parent.”

The ruling aids in protecting physicians who may get caught in the crosshairs of a parental dispute. If a physician performs a procedure without consent, it is considered battery. One parent’s consent is enough as a matter of law in Florida, so a medical provider is not liable to obtain the consent of both parents.

This decision does not negate a parent’s obligation under Florida’s shared parenting to reach a consensus on any major decision concerning the health and welfare of children, such as surgery. This case involved a lawsuit against the physician and not contempt proceedings filed by the father against the mother for willful violation a shared parenting. “Shared Parental Responsibility” has nothing to do with timesharing and is merely an expression that both parents retain co-equal rights to make major decisions concerning their children. These decisions include educational and healthcare decisions.

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John Schutz

John Schutz

Partner at John F. Schutz, P.L.

Representing clients exclusively in family law cases for the past 24 years, Mr. Schutz is widely regarded as a marital and family law expert. He is Board Certified in marital and family law by The Florida Bar. As a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), Mr. Schutz is committed to elevating the standards and improving the practice of family law.

John Schutz

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