The Senate’s majority Democrats tonight voted to approve legislation that would allow a child of any age to provide consent for medical procedures and care without seeking the consent or even informing the child’s parents or legal guardians.
The controversial measure would also grant blanket immunity to a health-care provider or facility against any action, civil or criminal, or other disciplinary action, should their decision result in the death, injury or mental or emotional harm to an unaccompanied minor.
“This bill is really about putting parents on the sideline,” said Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley. “The bill is so extreme that it apparently has no minimum age limit. Moreover, there is no accountability for the adults who would come between parents and their children, no matter how much damage that interference might cause the child. This is really an unconscionable bill, which the Senate should have rejected.”
Senate Bill 5883, which passed the Senate by a partisan vote of 28-21, would permit an unaccompanied homeless minor to provide informed consent for non-emergency, outpatient, primary health care services. Under the bill, however, there is no requirement that a health-care provider seek documentation that a patient is even an unaccompanied homeless minor at all.
Padden offered an amendment to the bill that would recognize parental rights, while also recognizing and informing health-care officials of information related to the principle of implied emancipation. That principle is also known as the mature minor rule, as articulated in the Washington State Supreme Court case of Smith v. Seibly.
“It is possible to address the underlying concerns expressed by the sponsors of this bill, without taking the extreme actions this bill would take,” said Padden. “The mature minor rule already allows truly emancipated minors the ability to receive the care they need, without shutting out loving parents who want only the best for their child.”
Padden pointed to testimony on the bill from Julie Barrett, with the Conservative Ladies of Washington, speaking to the Senate Law and Justice Committee earlier this year.
“This bill is a direct attack on parental rights,” Barrett told the committee members. “My daughter was suicidal and taken to Seattle Children’s hospital. She was moved without my consent to a homeless shelter for children for ten days. We were not allowed to communicate with her in any way. They changed her medical records to their address and took us off the records as her parents.
“She needed mental health care, which was not provided by the shelter. She was rescued by police officers and is now out of state receiving the care she needs.”
The Democrat majority rejected Padden’s amendment and approved the controversial measure on a caucus-line vote. SB 5883 now heads to the House of Representatives, where Padden says he hopes common sense and parental rights will receive more regard than was evident from the Senate majority’s vote.