EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN IN IDAHO SUED FOR ER CARE – PARENTAL RIGHT TO REFUSE vs STANDARD OF COMMUNITY PRACTICE

er.jpgAn Idaho case in Boise is coming down the legal pipeline. This case is significant as the plaintiff is support by the Center of Individual Rights group.

According to my understanding these are the general issues.

The baby was presented to the ER for evaluation and treatment.  The baby was ill. The baby was five-weeks old. The mother consented to evaluation on this sick infant. The mother agreed to labs and iv fluids.  ivbaghanging.jpg

The rub came when the baby required a spinal tap and iv antibiotics for evaluation and treatment, immediate or early, to limit the diagnostic possibilities and to provide early treatment for a potential devastating and possible deadly meningitis.

The mother evidently refused.

The Emergency Physician evidently requested protective custody for this infant to proceed. The hospital, the police, the courts agreed with the Emergency Physician and allowed the doctor to proceed.

Now about 5 years later, an entire community to protect this baby is being sued, as the baby and the mother’s rights were violated.

The defense of the doctor, hospital, and police state that the temporary custody allowed the proper diagnosis and treatment of this infant. Infants are tough diagnositc dilemmas naturally.

Courts have upheld even traditional medicine over holistic and alternative methods in cases of seriously or potentially seriously ill or injured children. Of course, that is with needed medical support clinically.

This case will be watched closely by all Emergency Physicians, Emergency Rooms, Law Enforcement Officers, and Courts.  If plaintiffs win this case, a significant shockwave will start a sunami of “hands-off” litigation and will create a mountain of defensive medicine procedures, especially in documentation of refusal of treatment and the risks involved. 

Who has the right to refuse treatment of an infant and who has the right to treat that infant? Should the law allow medical morbidity and mortality even in the face of “lay person” judgement?

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(castMD commentary with EM News review contribution)

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