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Doctors fear criminal penalties under new parents’ bill of rights

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida family physicians are worried the new parents’ bill of rights signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis might have unintended consequences when it comes to providing on-the-spot medical care.

They’re expressing concerns that physicians could face misdemeanor charges if they help a child without written parental consent.

According to the Florida Academy of Family Physicians, the dilemma doctors now face is that providing emergency medical care to a child could net them a year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.

“It truly is the epitome of no good deed goes unpunished,” Dr. John Gross, the organization’s president, said.

Dr. Gross said situations where young athletes get injured during a game or even suffer heat stroke are scenarios where medical professionals might find themselves thinking twice before providing care without written parental consent.

“You don’t want that in the back of your mind of, ‘If I help this minor without the parent’s written consent, you know, am I going to be punished for this good deed?’” Gross said.

Sponsors of the parents bill of rights have said all the bill really does is make it easier for parents to understand rights they already had.

“Now we have one section where they’re easily found, easily identifiable,” said State Sen. Ray Rodrigues, R-Fort Myers.

Sponsors have also noted that parents generally have to sign consent forms prior to their children joining school athletic teams.

Under Florida’s Good Samaritan Law, civil immunity is granted to anyone who in good faith renders emergency care.

But Gross said the Academy’s attorneys believe more clarity is needed. “There’s a lot of grey areas,” he said.

The group also said they need more clarity on how minors with abusive parents may seek medical care without permission.

Gross added that it’s his hope the clarity will come in the form of updated legislation. As he put it, if the issue has to be resolved in the courts, that likely means someone got hurt.