North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
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August 31, 1977

Subject:

Infants and Incompetents; Health Services; Physicians; Rendering Family Planning Services to Minors

Requested By:

Margie Rose, M.P.H., Branch Head, Family Planning Branch, Division of Health Services

Questions:

(1)
Is the consent of a minor sufficient to authorize a physician licensed in North Carolina to render family planning services to that minor without obtaining consent from the parent, guardian, or person standing in loco parentis?
(2)
Under these circumstances is the physician immune from liability from civil and criminal liability for rendering these services?

Conclusions:

(1)
Yes.
(2)
Yes.

The 1977 Session of the North Carolina General Assembly ratified Chapter 582 entitled "AN ACT TO AUTHORIZE HEALTH SERVICES FOR MINORS." That Chapter rewrote G.S. 90-21.5 to read as follows:

"Minor's consent sufficient for certain medical health services. -- (a) Any minor may give effective consent to a physician licensed to practice medicine in North Carolina for medical health services for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of (i) veneral disease and other diseases reportable under G.S. 130-81, (ii) pregnancy, (iii) abuse of controlled substances or alcohol, and (iv) emotional disturbance. This section does not authorize the inducing of an abortion, performance of a sterilization operation, or commitment to a mental institution or hospital for confinement or treatment of a mental condition.

(b) Any minor who is emancipated may consent to any medical treatment, dental and health services for himself or for his child."

Clearly the ". . . prevention . . . of . . . pregnancy" includes the rendering of family planning services, exclusive of the exceptions listed in this statute. Further, the statute is directed to any minor so that it is applicable to members of both sexes.

Finally, G.S. 90-21.4(a), as also rewritten by Chapter 582, provides that any physician rendering services of this nature to a minor under these circumstances ". . . shall not be held liable in any civil or criminal action for providing such services without having obtained permission from the minor's parent legal guardian, or persons standing in loco parentis." As a cautionary note, though, the new statutes specifically do not provide immunity to a physician for negligence on his part in diagnosis or treatment.

In view of the changes in these statutes by the 1977 General Assembly, any conflict between this opinion and the prior opinion of the Attorney General reported at 43 N.C.A.G. 380 (1974) should be resolved in favor of this opinion.

Rufus L. Edmisten Attorney General

William F. O'Connell Special Deputy Attorney General