In a child custody case, an Indiana court just ruled that a law allowing a psychologist to deny a child patient access to his records does not apply to parents obtaining those records.
The Indiana father wanted to see his child’s mental health records for his custody case, but the doctor and counselor took the position that Indiana law prevented the release of the records based upon the doctors’ opinions.
In Florida, parents are the natural guardians of their children. We generally presume that when children lack the capacity to make certain decisions, their parents – as their natural guardians – make those decisions for them.
But not always. Children have a right of privacy in some decisions, for example the right to seek an abortion, without parental consent, so parents cannot in all circumstances control the exercise of their child’s rights.
I’ve written about children’s issues previously. Children can invoke and waive constitutional rights without their parents. A minor may waive the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.
For medical decisions specifically, there are several statutory provisions that appear to limit parents’ access to their child’s medical records.
For example, under the Baker Act, a parent, as natural guardian, is entitled access to “appropriate” clinical records of the minor patient. While parents are entitled to hospital records of their children, these records may not always include psychiatric care records.
While, Florida law generally provides for confidentiality between a patient and a psychiatrist at the request of the patient or the patient’s legal representative, can the parents of a child waive that right if the child insists on confidentiality?
The answer may depend on the facts of a given case. Since a child has a privilege in the confidentiality of his communications with his psychotherapist, if his parents are in litigation over the best interests of the child, (such as in a custody case) the parents may not assert or waive the privilege on their child’s behalf.
The Indiana case is here.