When Parents Disagree About a Child’s Medical Treatment: the Angeli v. Kluka Case

Alan R. Burton Attorney at Law

Making decisions about major medical treatments such as surgery for a child can be stressful for any family, even one where the parents consider themselves happily married and generally able to make decisions together without major conflict. When parents divorce, all of the conflicts about parenting that they had when they were married become amplified. In the worst cases, the courts have to get involved to resolve their disputes. The current system of parenting plans in Florida is designed to prevent these major conflicts. The parenting plan form seeks to anticipate every possible scenario in which conflict might arise and decide beforehand which parent will have the final say in each type of parenting decision. The Angeli v. Kluka case shows why this system is important because, when it comes to consenting to non-emergency surgery for a child, one parent’s consent is all you need.

Details of the Angeli v. Kluka Case

When Alexander Girgis was 3 years old, he underwent adenoid removal surgery. (Adenoid removal surgery is a non-emergency surgery; it is quite common for children who suffer from recurrent ear infections or sinus infections when other treatments fail to resolve the problem.)  Dr. Evelyn Kluka is the surgeon who performed the surgery, and Alexander recovered without any complications. At the time of the surgery, Alexander’s parents were in the process of getting a divorce. Alexander’s mother was the legal guardian who consented to the surgery, since medical treatments on minor children require a parent’s consent.

Five days after the surgery, Dr. Kluka called Alexander’s father, Imad Angeli, to follow up about Alexander’s recovery. Alexander’s father said that he had never given his consent for the surgery and that he planned to file a lawsuit. In the lawsuit, he alleged that his ex-wife had misled the doctor about the father’s consent. It was not a typical malpractice suit because he did not allege that Dr. Kluka had performed an unnecessary surgery or that she had done the surgery incorrectly. The court did not accept the father’s complaint.

Florida’s case law contains few examples of parents disagreeing about consenting to a child’s medical treatment. The examples that are present are unanimous in saying that the consent of one parent is sufficient to proceed with the treatment. Non-emergency medical treatment is one of the most important items in the Florida parenting plan agreement for exactly this reason. Parents must agree ahead of time which parent has the final say about non-emergency medical treatment for the children. Emergency medical treatment is a different matter. Decisions need to be made quickly, and whichever parent is present when the emergency situation arises has the authority to consent to the necessary treatment.

Contact Alan R. Burton About Parenting Plan Agreements

Drafting a parenting plan can involve many thorny issues, not least among them medical treatment. Contact Alan R. Burton in Boca Raton, Florida about how to draft a parenting plan that will effectively avoid conflicts between parents.

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