Appeals Court Rules In Escambia Case: Only One Parent Must Sign Off On Medical Procedures

May 30, 2016

In what could be first-of-its-kind case in Florida, an appeals court  rejected arguments that both parents need to sign off before a child can undergo surgery.

The ruling, by a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal, upheld an Escambia County circuit judge’s decision in a case in which parents had separated and the mother gave consent for a 3-year-old child to have adenoid and ear-tube surgery.

The father, Imad S. Angeli, had objected to the child undergoing surgery and filed a lawsuit against physician Evelyn Kluka and the Nemours Children’s Clinic, alleging battery and intentional interference with a parent-child relationship, the ruling said.

But the appeals-court panel found that state law only requires the consent of one parent and pointed to a potentially “untenable” situation if medical providers had to navigate disputes between parents about performing procedures.

“We conclude, just as the trial court did, that Florida law does not require health care providers to assume the burden of refereeing or going to court to resolve disputes between parents, so long as at least one legally authorized person provides consent,” said the nine-page ruling, written by Judge Susan Kelsey and joined by Judge T. Kent Wetherell and Associate Judge Angela Dempsey. “One would hope that parents committed to successful co-parenting, as they should be, would resolve these disputes between themselves or with the informal assistance of counselors or advisors. Failing that, a parent seeking to prevent the rendition of medical care or treatment to which the other parent has consented can go to court to seek an injunction and resolve the dispute.”

The Escambia County circuit judge, Ross M. Goodman, noted that the dispute appeared to be a case of “first impression” — meaning a first-of-its-kind case in Florida, the ruling said. The appeals court also pointed to “limited analogous case law” and cited one decade-old article in a legal publication about the issue.

Angeli, who the ruling said was formerly known as Imad S. Girgis, was going through divorce proceedings with his wife and had equal custody rights to their two children. The mother, who is not identified in the ruling, initially scheduled adenoid surgery for both children, but the procedures were canceled after the father called the doctor and objected.

The mother rescheduled surgery for the younger child about three months later. The father said he informed a member of the surgeon’s staff that he did not consent to the surgery, which was performed with the approval of the mother, according to the ruling. The surgeon noted in a medical chart that a nurse had informed her before the surgery that the parents had reached agreement on the procedure — though Angeli alleged the mother had misrepresented his position.

Nevertheless, the appeals court said no state law requires medical providers to get consent from both parents.

“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 said.

by Jim Saunders, The News Service of Florida


8 Responses to “Appeals Court Rules In Escambia Case: Only One Parent Must Sign Off On Medical Procedures”

  1. Shay on May 31st, 2016 9:34 pm

    I’m am the single mother of two minor boys still living at home. Both fathers are deadbeats and are not involved in their child’s life(their choice). Medical treatment should be withheld until they ask the “dead beat?” If they were concerned about their child’s life or even well being they’d be in the child’s life. Obviously they don’t care so why should I have to call them for their opinion on medical treatment? Not every scenario has a happy ending where both the parents are involved in their children’s lives.

  2. No Excuses on May 31st, 2016 8:29 pm

    @Kyle -

    Calm down – I’m just stating an opinion. If there needs to be a tie breaker in these types of decisions, then it should be the parent that the court ruled as the primary custodian. Of course, that person should keep the other parent in the loop and all decisions discussed, but in the end, if there is conflict, divorced parents can’t afford to go to court every time something comes up that can’t be agreed upon.

    Personally, I’d weigh all the options, then do what, in my educated opinion, I thought was best for my child. If surgery could be avoided, then great! If not, then a surgery would be scheduled at the earliest possible convenience.

    BTW – my ex really is crazy. Just ask anyone who knows him!

  3. Clarify on May 31st, 2016 9:05 am

    @Kyle I think No Excuses was saying that she was once married to an unreasonable, irrational man, not that the man in the article was. :-)
    Just IF he was, she understood.

  4. Pensacola pete on May 31st, 2016 12:15 am

    Imagine the doctor trying to locate all the deadbeat dads every time a child needed surgery!

  5. David Huie Green on May 30th, 2016 10:58 pm

    Consider the alternative:

    A child needs surgical or medical help or will die.

    One of the parents approves the life-saving procedure.

    The other is out of touch (on a secret SEAL mission, running silent in a nuclear submarine, off hunting in a cell phone dead zone or without a cell phone, in a coma from the same accident which harmed the minor, whatever might put him or her out of touch for 20 minutes or more) and can not possibly give consent.

    The doctors are forbidden to treat without permission from both so nothing is done.

    The child dies with help at hand and wanting to act, but forbidden.

    This way is better.

    (My grandfather came upon a wreck. A woman was gurgling blood. A black man in a suit was standing watching, saying over and over,
    “It’s a shame. It’s just a shame.”

    When Grandpa asked, he explained he was a surgeon from Chicago and could save her but the crowd would lynch him if he touched the white woman.

    Grandpa pulled his 38.

    “I’m a US Deputy Marshal. You take care of the woman. I’ll take care of the crowd.”

    He did and they all lived.)

    David for good judges
    and people who care

  6. kyle on May 30th, 2016 10:39 pm

    @no excuses:

    as for the unreasonableness of the man… if a doctor said your kid’s tonsils had to come out, but a 2nd doctor said they were inflamed but not such a risk as to need removal… which would you choose, especially when the risks of surgery you consider to be too great?

    drop the irrational and unreasonable labels on the guy – it was the mother who was scared to death and made a decision after misrepresenting the father’s wishes after the first surgery had been rescheduled.

    in other words, the mom sweet-talked the doctor into setting up a 2nd surgery after dad had convinced the doc to reschedule the first surgery until they could get a 2nd opinion.

    the mother acted out of near-panic and lied to a doctor to have a surgery on her kid that may not have been necessary.

    would you have filed a lawsuit?

    the conflicts between divorced parents contain too many possible points of disagreement for a policy of getting both parent’s approval – the hospital would have double liability if both parents had to agree – creating a situation where the hospital would be on the hook for malpractice every time it cared for children of divorced parents.

    in short, if you look at the 4th paragraph of the article, beginning with the words “but the appeals-court panel found…” – the court decided correctly.

    knowing that mom lied about having the dad’s permission doesn’t really make him unreasonable or irrational, does it?

  7. No Excuses on May 30th, 2016 4:47 pm

    It would seem that both parents should give consent, but having divorced a very unreasonable, irrational man, I can totally understand how much better it can be for a child if ONE parent that has some sense makes the decisions for them.

  8. Puddin on May 30th, 2016 12:12 am

    Although I understand, and partially agree with this ruling, I can see some serious negatives. Since I am currently in a joint custody situation where I’m not the primary custodian, decisions are being made by a step mother who should have no say so at all. (Bio dad isnt interested in taking responsibility) If she is able to sign (in place of the father) for surgery or medical procedures to be performed without my consent there will be serious consequences for the kids. She is a strong proponent of a certain procedure I strongly object to. The courts gave me equal say, but with this ruling, she will be able to go behind my back and get it done. I would think that some effort should be made, on the doctor’s part, to ensure both custodians are contacted before anything is done.

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