Duty of Care for Minors 

Duty of Care– Exemptions for Minors

Most medical professionals and institutions do their best to provide the minimum Duty of Care necessary, especially when dealing with children and teens. Although it might pay well, medicine involves many years of study, and most medical professionals possess altruistic qualities. 

There are times, however, when exemptions to providing the best care exist. These generally revolve around religious exemptions. Adults are well within their rights to refuse recommended care. With minors, this becomes more complex. 

While the parents or guardians of some youngsters might go to an Emergency Room or physician and request treatment for their offspring, those with religious standards that ban certain procedures might refuse recommended care. 

This usually involves certain types of medications, blood transfusions, etc. This becomes a real quandary for a physician, as the welfare of the child must come first. If the refusal of some treatments can really harm a youngster or even lead to death, the role of a physician changes. 

Parents might become enraged at the physician and even more upset when a medical professional follows the Duty of Care by reporting the exemption/refusal of care to social service agencies. 

This is when HoeyLegal of Chester County should be consulted by any physician who must report an incident. Loss of licensing and civil penalties might ensue, so mandating reporting needs professional experience in medical malpractice claims when the physician may face a lawsuit for reporting these types of incidents. 

What Duty of Care Do Physicians Follow? 

The most basic Duty of Care is what a reasonable individual would consider the bare minimum set out by the AMA (American Medical Association). This is considered a moral, ethical, and unbreakable contract by physicians. 

When a physician does not adhere to these principles, a lawsuit can be filed, and a physician may have their license revoked or suspended. This is why many physicians typically struggle with exemptions while performing medical procedures or treating patients under the age of majority.

Physicians should protect the minor dependent but also themselves, and as the top medical malpractice attorney in Chester County, HoeyLegal is always happy to educate physicians on their rights and, of course, to assist in their defense if a lawsuit ensues. 

The Course of Action for Physicians in Exemptions

A physician’s role changes at this point in the Duty of Care. When a minor’s parent or guardian refuses some treatments, the effects of refusal must be determined if possible. Physicians use the following judgment and guidelines:

1.   Will the refusal cause serious harm or even death? 

This is never a situation physicians relish, but if the refusal of certain medications or treatments is determined not to effectively cause irreparable harm, a physician will generally comply, as exemptions exist in almost all states in the US. 

Vaccinations are usually required for school attendance, and physicals may be required for participation in sports and some activitiesPhysicians will generally point this out, but homeschooling can be done. How much harm will occur without treatment must be pinpointed. 

2.   The shift in defining the Duty of Care—mandated reporting

On the other side of the coin, with serious injuries or disease, there is a shift in the Duty of Care of a physician. If dire consequences result from the refusal of a parent or guardian to provide the necessary medical intervention, the physician must immediately report this to social services. 

Mandated reporting of incidents like this must be made to the Department of Human Services, as all physicians and medical personnel are Mandated Reporters. A physician’s lack or delay of reporting will breach their Duty of Care at this point. 

Physicians must be timely in reporting and not hesitant at all in reporting these issues, or can be held negligibly liable themselves. A refusal of treatment of a minor can be considered child abuse, and a physician must take this as seriously as if they were treating the minor to full capacity. 

3.   Will the refusal of care cause psychological harm? 

The shift in the Duty of Care by exemption also encompasses the psychological welfare of a child. If a child patient presents with untreated psychological problems, a physician must also report this. 

Many psychological problems are no fault of a parent or guardian, but treatment must be given. In addition, some psychological presentations can result from the abuse of a child. Mental, physical, and emotional abuse can also be deemed abuse. 

Physicians must be very alert for all sorts of symptoms when exemptions to care are claimed in the case of any minor. 

Summary—Duty of Care—Exemptions in Minors

Every parent and guardian has the right to refuse care for a minor. Physicians can feel torn when faced with these types of situations. 

Exemptions of care can put physicians in a real possibility of a lawsuit if a minor suffers undue injury or death. Parents who request an exemption also may be subject to civil or even criminal charges if a minor suffers horrendous injury or even death. 

To be on the safe side to prevent a lawsuit against them and also to prevent injury to minors, many physicians will contact social services to effectively log the details and look into possible child abuse. 

Failure to report suspected abuse can lead to civil and even criminal charges against a physician. Of course, this only applies if the report of possible abuse was done in good faith.

When a physician fails to report any oddity in the parent/child relationship, and an exemption of care exists, a physician has not fulfilled their fiduciary duty.   

Christian J. Hoey provides a free evaluation and welcomes all questions on this sensitive subject by either the parent of a minor or a physician worried about the possibility of a lawsuit. 

Fill out the form on the HoeyLegal website if in doubt about the patient’s rights or physician’s duties, or call: 610-647-5151 or 888-GO-HOEY1

For more information on all our law services, visit us at HoeyLegal.com or call us at (610) 647-5151.

Distracted Driving

Pennsylvania defines distracted driving as “an activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.” Drivers have to focus on driving, so they can react to the information on the road, such as road conditions, hazards and other drivers. Distracted drivers do not react appropriately and thus put others at risk for severe injury or death. Examples of distractions, besides using cell phones and texting, include drinking, eating, adjusting the radio, adjusting climate controls, adjusting seats, combing hair, putting on make-up, daydreaming, reaching for dropped items, engaging in heavy conversations, and focusing on events outside of the car.

Driving Under the Influence

Driving under the influence typically refers to alcohol use, but drug use can also impair drivers and cause severe car accidents.  In either situation, enjoying cocktails at happy hour, celebrating with drugs or alcohol, drinking too much wine for dinner and unwinding after a long week at work results in too many motorists driving under the influence.  Controlled substances impact each person differently, making it common for someone to misjudge his or her level of impairment.  These poor judgments can lead to severe and sometimes fatal car accidents.

Driver Fatigue

Driving without enough sleep is commonplace for many in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and across the nation. Truck drivers, shift workers, and those with sleep disorders are most vulnerable to causing an accident because they are drowsy or fatigued. Not having enough rest slows down reaction time and impairs the senses. In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) claims that eighteen (18) hours without sleep impairs a driver to the same extent as someone who has a 0.08 blood or breath alcohol concentration after consuming alcohol.


The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that one-third of all car accidents involve speeding. Drivers who rush, run late, or simply lack patience may choose to speed when they get behind the wheel. Speeding makes it more likely that a driver will lose control of his or her vehicle and makes it more difficult to react to road hazards and other vehicles. Speeding also increases the impact of a car accident and makes it far less likely that a negligent driver may maintain control of his vehicle sufficient to prevent a collision. High speed car accidents make it far more likely that those involved will suffer severe injuries or death.


At HoeyLegal, we know from our litigation experience that tractor-trailer drivers often operate at least one cellular phone which is in use at, during, or immediately prior to a tractor-trailer accident. Additionally, most tractor-trailers are equipped with data recorders which capture, in real-time, important vehicle operation events including speed, hard braking and other evasive maneuvers taken by the operator and the tractor-trailer.  It is imperative that this evidence be obtained before it is destroyed.  At HoeyLegal, our trial attorneys will obtain any necessary court order to preserve this evidence for trial.


Oftentimes, there are several defendants responsible for the tractor-trailer accident. In most cases, at least two defendants are responsible for the ownership and operation of the tractor-trailer.  There may be additional defendants responsible for the hiring and retention of the tractor-trailer driver.  At HoeyLegal, our investigators will promptly identify the responsible defendants and immediately request the preservation of all evidence related to the hiring and retention of the driver, inspection of the vehicles and the supervision and drug/alcohol testing of the vehicle operator.


Our accident investigators include mechanics who will immediately respond to the accident site and the location where the truck has been impounded in order to photograph the truck and conduct necessary mechanical inspections of the vehicle. In the event that a court order is necessary to examine and inspect the trucks, HoeyLegal Attorneys will promptly file the necessary motions to enable the HoeyLegal mechanics and inspectors to conduct a prompt evaluation of the mechanical function of the at-fault tractor-trailer


Our expert accident investigators include former Pennsylvania State Police accident investigators and nationally recognized engineers who will carefully photograph the accident scene and conduct all necessary measurements of skid marks, yaw marks, displacement of debris and thoroughly examine the accident site to preserve all evidence for the time of trial.


Our investigators will promptly interview and record all witnesses that observed the accident and collect all biographical information from the witnesses so they will available to testify on your behalf at trial.

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