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The legal requirements for consent to a minor's medical care are discussed in Chapters 11 and 12. In addition to these legal requirements, physicians must contend with the special logistics problems of caring for children. One common problem is that pediatric patients are often brought to the office by someone other than the parent or legal guardian. In a busy pediatrics practice, it is easy to lose track of who has the legal right to consent to medical care for a child. As the divorce rate increases, more children have multiple parents with varying rights to consent to medical care.

The first time children are brought to the office, they should be accompanied by the parent or guardian who has full authority to consent to care. At that time, the physician should obtain written consent to care, including written authorization for any other persons who will be bringing the child in for care. This authorization should list who may consent to the child's care and whether there are any restrictions on what kind of care they may authorize. While it sometimes cannot be avoided, the physician should check with the parents or guardian before accepting this proxy consent for surgical procedures or extensive nonemergency care. If there is disagreement between divorced parents over a child's medical care, it is important to find out which parent has the legal right to consent to the child's care. This can usually be determined by a call to the clerk of the court that has jurisdiction over the divorce. Child welfare services can also help in determining this information.

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