Being responsible for your babies often feels like a lifelong, full time job, whether they are two or thirty two. While the responsibilities tend to be obvious and overt, in some situations, your rights as a parent or guardian are a little more mystified. In recent, high profile brain injury cases, the rights of a parent and their wishes have been the subject of conversation and debate. With much misinformation flying around, here is some guidance on what you can expect as a parent of a sick child in hospital care.
Myth #1 The parent has final say over a child’s care
As a parent or guardian, your consent is needed for almost every medical decision made by their doctors. You have a right to clear, concise and plain information about treatment being offered in order to make sound decisions. However, if a doctor believes they are acting to save a child’s life, they can treat your child without your consent. Further to this, if you attempt to prevent your child from receiving necessary treatment, you could be charged with neglect and a temporary guardian appointed to your child.
As your child gets older, they also begin to take more responsibility for their own medical decisions and can be deemed capable of giving consent in some situations. There is no standard for this and it is up to an individual doctor or trust to decide whether a child is capable of giving consent.
When a person does have a brain injury, their parents may have more responsibility over their child’s medical decisions for far longer than they would if their child had not suffered an injury. These rules still apply no matter the age of your child, while you can refuse treatment, a doctor can contest this and attempt to have a guardian or advocate appointed to advocate for your child’s care.
In reality, the care of any person without capacity to consent to treatment is a conversation between doctors and guardians. It’s important to keep information flowing and collaborate.
Myth #2 The doctor has to do what I say!
A good healthcare team will take your wishes and your child’s wishes into account when devising treatment plans. If you have done your own research or wish to have additional options explored, these requests should be listened to. However, your doctor or the hospital staff is ultimately the ones liable for any mistakes of malpractice and you cannot demand a course of treatment for your child. If you have good reason to believe your child is being treated negligently, you can complain via PALS or seek a second opinion. However, your doctor may have good reasons to not want to pursue a particular treatment option. It’s always best to ask lots of questions and make notes. If you need to contest a decision later on, having a good record is invaluable.
Myth #3 The doctors can stop me from staying with my child
Barring any charges of abuse or neglect, or if staying with your child would put either of you at risk, you have a right to stay with your child during their stay at hospital. Parents are also allowed to sleep over if needed, although sometimes facilities will only allow one parent to sleep over. You should not be removed from your child without real, serious concern for either of you wellbeing being at play. If you were to be separated by your child due to accusations of abuse or neglect, a guardian would be appointed to advocate for their care.
Myth #4 There’s nothing I can do about my child’s care
Doctors may be able to overrule parents in specific cases, but mostly, a child’s guardian will be treated with respect. You have a right to ask questions and have them answered and there is nothing stopping you from taking notes and requesting to see any data being kept on your child or family. Asking questions is important when a child undergoes medical care and you have the right to be given a point of contact to talk to with any follow up questions, as well as the name and job descriptions of anyone coming into contact with your child.
If you do feel like your child has been mistreated, you have the right to complain, you can also look into filing a claim for compensation on their behalf, if you feel they have sustained an injury due to negligence.