Is it illegal for a doctor’s office to accept consent from a grandparent to administer an elective vaccine, without consent from either custodial parent?

My son’s father and I have shared legal and physical custody. His grandmother informed me that she was taking it to him to get his second hep and flu shots. When I told her I was not aware that he had 1 flu shot, and why this was not discussed with me prior, as my son’s father and I are to make shared medical decisions together. How could a grandparent give consent to receive the flu shots without getting content from either legal custodial parent with a child? Could I pursue legal action in this matter?

Asked on December 2, 2011 under Family Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

L.P., Member, Pennsylvania and New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Thank you for submitting your question regarding parameters of obtaining legal consent to vaccinate a child.  Each state devises a family code for laws governing the treatment of children, mostly for the financial and personal well being of the child.  Within the state’s family code, there are guidelines for consent for treatment of a child.  These guidelines clearly lay out which individuals have the authority to consent for the vaccination of a child.  While each state may be slightly different, generally speaking, the people who can consent for the medical treatment of a child, including vaccinations, include:  the natural/ biological mother and father, an adoptive mother or father, an emancipated minor, or a parent who is appointed by the court to make medically-related decisions for the child.  If the aforementioned cannot be reached and the doctors have no notice that any of those individuals have a contrary opinion, then the following people can make medical decisions for a child:  an adult brother or sister, an adult aunt or uncle, a grandparent, or an educational institution that has been given the legal authority to make these decisions.

Notice that the law states that the second group of people can only make those decisions if the natural parents cannot be reached and there is no opinion to the contrary.  Have you discussed with your child’s pediatrician that you do not want vaccinations for your child?  If you feel strongly about not vaccinating your child, you need to be certain that your pediatrician is aware of your concerns, because there are some pediatricians that will not take on a child as a patient if the parent refuses to vaccinate them. 

Also, be sure that the child’s father did not consent to this vaccination and maybe he did not make you aware of it.  If he did not give consent, then the grandparent could be liable for battery, since the vaccination could be viewed as an unlawful touching without consent.  If you are still having problems after speaking to your pediatrician’s office, you may want to contact a family law attorney to further assist you with your custody issues. 

 


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