RECENT COURT OF APPEAL RULING REGARDING CONSENT ISSUES IN EMERGENT SITUATIONS: Spring 2024

Navigating family law issues alongside medical concerns is always a difficult process for medical professionals.

In Geffner v. Board of Psychology, 2024 WL 834986, the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s denial of Dr. Geffner’s petition for writ of administrative mandamus after the California Board of Psychology revoked Dr. Geffner’s license for failing to obtain the father’s consent before evaluating two siblings for suicidality. The Geffner case provides some direction with respect to consent issues when care providers seek to provide appropriate care and treatment to minors, especially in emergent situations. In a non-emergent situation, the consent of both divorced parents was required. Here, the Court indicated the determination of an emergent situation is made on a case-by-case basis and the specific circumstances must be considered. The Court cited to Breazeal v. Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital (1991) 234 Cal.App.3d 1329, 1338, for the principle, “It would seem obvious that in determining whether a patient’s condition constitutes such an emergency the trier of fact must consider the gravity, the certainty, and the immediacy of the consequences to be expected if no action is taken. However, beyond observing that these are the relevant considerations, the variety of situations that would qualify as emergencies under any reasonable set of criteria is too great to admit of anything approaching a bright line rule as to just how grave, how certain, and how immediate such consequences have to be.” In Dr. Geffner’s case, the Board and trial court found there was no emergent situation that allowed Dr. Geffner to proceed without the father’s consent. The Court of Appeal, however, found an emergent situation existed because the children were in imminent risk of harm to themselves or others. Dr. Geffner’s determination that the children were not at imminent risk if certain protective factors were followed did not obviate the emergency nor did the fact he had time to write a report with his findings and recommendations.

-Corinna E. Meissner

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