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It is the purpose of this policy to clarify the legal issues surrounding consent to medical care and/or the refusal of care by minors in the pre-hospital EMS setting.
Emergency Medical Services (EMS)providers are often presented with patients who are considered by law to be minors.
A minor, in New York State, is defined as a person who is under eighteen (18) years of age.
This is defined by the General Obligations Law § 1-202, Domestic Relations Law § 2 and Public Health Law § 2504.
The issue of providing care and/or the patient's right to refuse care becomes a complex circumstance EMS providers must address.
Third-degree criminal sexual conduct is sexual penetration with (1) a victim under age 13 and an actor no more than 36 months older or (2) a victim age 13 to 16 and an actor more than 24 months older.
Unfortunately, these do not impact health care decisions including the ability to consent or refuse care in the prehospital setting.
An individual who is legally a minor cannot give effective legal/informed consent to treatment and therefore, conversely, cannot legally refuse treatment. Fully document all circumstances including subjective and objective findings, attempts to contact parents, note any objections or refusals by the patient and all other pertinent situational facts. Always consider contacting medical control for assistance.
Medical, dental, health and hospital services may be rendered to persons of any age without the consent of a parent or legal guardian when, in the physician's judgment an emergency exists and the person is in immediate need of medical attention and an attempt to secure consent would result in delay of treatment which would increase the risk to the person's life or health.
In addition to these provisions for health care consent by 'emancipated' individuals, there are other statutory provisions for minors who are in military service or are seeking treatment for AIDS (PHL § 2781) and other sexually transmitted diseases (PHL § 2305).