State Budget Amendment Removes Parental Care Consent
The Coalition for Parental Choice Wednesday urged Governor Charlie Baker to veto a budget amendment which would remove parental consent for preventive care. The amendment concerns access to HIV prevention treatment for minors but goes much farther by making sweeping, risky changes to Chapter 112 Section 12F of the General Laws, a law originally intended to provide liability immunity for emergency treatment of minors.
By using vague terminology, the amendment expands minor consent far beyond HIV prevention. Specifically, the amendment allows minors to consent to the prevention of illnesses they are "at risk of exposure to" and would include over 70 diseases that are relevant to public health. The phrase, "at risk of exposure to" is exceedingly broad. Anyone may be "at risk of exposure to" virtually any disease at any time and such language should not be used to define parameters for minor consent. In addition, there are absolutely no restrictions on age or intellectual capacity to consent, and records related to medical care would be hidden from parents.
The budget item, Amendment 263, was sponsored by Representative Jack Patrick Lewis (D – Framingham) and was included in lines 959 – 972 in the final version of the state budget for Fiscal Year 2023 that was recently sent to the governor. The amendment was not subject to a public hearing.
"Not only is this legislation ill-conceived, the way it was passed in the dark of night is ill- conceived as well," said Candice Edwards of the Coalition for Parental Choice. "Anyone who supports this amendment is essentially endorsing an end-run around the legislative process for the implementation of significant health care policy regardless of its consequences."
Said Andrew Zimmerman, a Professor of Pediatrics and Neurology at UMass Chan Medical School and a long-time member of the American Academy of Pediatrics and Child Neurology Society, "I am very pro-vaccine but I believe that parental consent for medical treatment is a fundamental safeguard in the medical system and is especially crucial for children and young adults with intellectual or communication disabilities."
The coalition emphasized that the Supreme Court has unequivocally held parental decision- making constitutes a fundamental right. States may only intervene into parental medical decision-making in narrow contexts or where a child has a life-threatening illness or disabling condition. There is no authority to intervene when a child is healthy and safe.
[Illustration -- CDC image library]