My youngest son is 16 years old now. Last summer, as Covid forced lockdowns, he and half a dozen of his friends planned a beach trip to celebrate the end of the pandemic. A friend’s parents volunteered to chaperone and rented a house for June of 2021. The promise of a week together at the beach kept them optimistic for an entire year.
I’m delighted that he’s going to get away with his friends. But as a mom and lawyer, I worry. My son recently broke his ankle while at a friend’s house. Had he been out of town with the child’s parents, would they have been able to authorize medical care if they were unable to reach us?
That’s why before he heads out I’m preparing a Designation of Healthcare Agent that authorizes his caregivers to make healthcare decisions for him when my son is in their care and custody.
When Can a Minor Consent to their Own Treatment
Generally, minors in Texas do not have the capacity to consent to medical treatment. However, certain exceptions exist.
Texas law allows minors to consent to treatment by a licensed physician or dentist when the minor is:
- On active duty with armed services.
- Sixteen years old or older and resides separate and apart from parents, managing conservator, or guardian (with or without their consent) and is managing his/her own financial affairs, regardless of the source of income.
- Unmarried and pregnant and consents to treatment related to pregnancy, other than abortion.
- Unmarried and the parent of a child and has actual custody of that child and consents for him/her.
- Consenting to diagnosis or treatment of an infectious, contagious, or communicable disease, including sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), that must be reported to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS).
- Requesting examination or treatment for chemical addiction, dependency, or any other condition directly related to chemical use.
- Consenting for counseling for suicide prevention, chemical addiction or dependency, or for sexual, physical, or emotional abuse.
If these factors do not exist, minors cannot consent to their own treatment.
Consent by Unrelated Adults
Parents have the power to consent to medical treatment for a minor. And Texas does allow certain non-parents to consent to treatment when a parent or guardian can’t be contacted.
If the adult with whom your child will be is a grandparent, sibling, aunt, or uncle, it would be permissible for them to consent to treatment. However, if the adult is unrelated, that person would only be able to consent with your written authorization.
Specifically, the following individuals may consent to treatment when a parent or guardian cannot be contacted (unless the parent or guardian has given actual notice to the contrary):
- A grandparent of the minor.
- An adult brother or sister of the minor.
- An adult aunt or uncle of the minor.
- An educational institution in which the child is enrolled that has received written authorization to consent from a person having the right to consent.
- An adult who has actual care, control, and possession of the minor and has written authorization to consent from a person having the right to consent. (emphasis added)
- A court having jurisdiction over a suit affecting the parent-child relationship of which the minor is the subject.
- An adult responsible for the actual care, control, and possession of a minor under the jurisdiction of a juvenile court or committed by a juvenile court to the care of an agency of the state or county.
- A peace officer in lawful custody of a minor if the peace officer has reasonable grounds to believe the minor is in need of immediate medical treatment.
My son will be with an unrelated adult, so having a written authorization is necessary.
What to Include on the Consent Form
Texas law provides that an authorization for a non-parent to give consent for health care treatment must be in writing, signed by the person giving consent, and presented to the physician. The authorization must include:
- The minor’s name.
- The name of one or both parents, if known, and the name of any managing conservator or guardian of the child.
- The name of the person giving consent and his/her relationship to the child.
- A statement of the nature of the medical treatment authorized.
- The date the treatment is to begin. It is also possible to include a date at which the authorization will end.
Additional Information to Include
In addition to the above, I recommend that you include some additional information. You know your children’s doctors, dentist, orthodontist, and any medical regimen they are on, but the adult to whom you’ve entrusted your child may not. So it’s important to provide them with this information, along with pertinent insurance information, so they can easily access it if needed.
Include information such as:
- Your health insurance provider and member identification number.
- The name and phone number of your child’s physician.
- The name and number of your child’s dentist and/or orthodontist.
- Your name and address and a phone number where you can be reached.
- Any medication your child takes regularly, along with instructions on timing and dosage.
- Allergies your child may have.
In case of an emergency, your caregivers will have all this information in one place, relieving them of the stress of having to find it.
What if there is a Life-Threatening Emergency
Texas law does not require consent in emergency circumstances where it is not possible to reach a parent or guardian. The statutes provide that consent for emergency care for an individual is not required if the individual is a minor who is suffering from what reasonably appears to be life-threatening injury or illness and whose parents, managing or possessory conservator, or guardian, is not present.