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Physicians must do everything in their power to ensure that they remain complaint with federal rules and regulations governing everything from referrals to reimbursement. This also holds true at the state level, particularly when it comes to such matters as privacy and patient consent.

The failure to abide by state law in this latter category can expose physicians to certain professional consequences, including reprimands from the Florida Board of Medicine, as well as potential liability. In light of this reality, it's imperative for all physicians to be aware of any developments in this area of the law.

To that end, consider a recent decision by Florida's First District Court of Appeal concerning surgery and the need for parental consent.

According to the facts of the case, a mother and father of two young children were in the midst of divorce proceedings with both parents having equal custody rights. During this time, the mother scheduled adenoid and ear-tube surgery for both children, but the procedures were cancelled after the father voiced his objections to the pediatric ENT surgeon.

Three months later, the mother rescheduled the surgery for one of the children and it was successfully performed by the aforementioned surgeon, who noted in the chart that she had been informed by a nurse beforehand that both parents now consented to the procedure.

The father, who claimed that his former spouse had lied about his consent and had called again to object, eventually filed a lawsuit against the surgeon and her clinic alleging both battery and intentional interference with a parent-child relationship. Specifically, the lawsuit argued that the consent of both parents must be secured for pediatric surgeries.

The trial court rejected these arguments and, in a case of first impression, the appeals court upheld the decision.

Specifically, the three-judge panel ruled that Florida law only requires the consent of one parent and that physicians are not required to mediate parental disputes.

"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," reads the opinion.

Here's hoping the following discussion proved enlightening for those physicians who see pediatric patients. Those medical professionals with any questions or concerns about their rights and responsibilities under state or federal law should seriously consider meeting with an experienced legal professional.  

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