North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
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October 13, 1977 Infants and Incompetents; Mental Health; Physicians; Determination of Need for Notification of Parents When Services are Rendered to Minors for Drug Abuse.

Subject:

 

Requested By: R. J. Bickel, Deputy Director for Administration Division of Mental Health Services

 

Questions: (1)

When the primary therapist is a drug counselor, social worker, or other such professional, who is responsible for making the decision relative to notification of the parents, etc, of a minor receiving treatment for drug abuse if:
(a)
The parent, etc, has not requested information but there is a possibility that such notification is essential to the life or health of the minor.
(b)
The parent, etc, contacts the physician concerning the treatment or medical services rendered to the minor.
(2)
In the situations described in question (1), do the provisions of G.S. 90-21.4(b) provide immunity to the primary therapist in similar fashion to the physician in charge?

Conclusions: (1)

It is desirable and recommended that the physician in charge make the decisions involved in both of the situations described.
(2)
Yes, subject to conclusion (1).

For purposes of this opinion, it is assumed that the other professionals described are actually working under the supervision and direction of the physician in charge. This being so, this Office has recently held that Article 1A, Chapter 90 applies to these individuals so as to permit them to treat a minor without parental consent. See Opinion of the Attorney General to Ed McClearen, Staff Attorney, Mental Health Study Commission, dated 4 October, 1977, ___N.C.A.G. ____ .

As affecting the present problems, G.S. 90-21.4, after providing immunity from civil and criminal actions for non-negligent treatment of minors in these types of situations, also provides:

"(b) The physician shall not notify a parent, legal guardian, or person standing in loco parentis, without the permission of the minor, concerning the medical health services set out in G.S. 90-21.5(a), unless the situation in the opinion of the attending physician indicates that notification is essential to the life or health of the minor. If a parent, legal guardian or person standing in loco parentis contacts the physician concerning the treatment or medical services being provided to the minor, the physician may give information."

The decision involved in question (1)(a) appears to require such a degree of professional expertise that it should be made by the physician in charge. Further, since the immunity granted to the team member stems from the physician in charge and because of the degree of professional judgment involved in both of these decisions they should be made by that physician so as to avoid vulnerability to criticism or litigation for all personnel involved.

Rufus L. Edmisten Attorney General

William F. O'Connell Special Deputy Attorney General