Legal considerations during pediatric emergency mass critical care events

Courtney, B.; Hodge, J. G., Jr.; Task Force for Pediatric Emergency Mass Critical, Care

Pediatr Crit Care Med. 2011 Dec 16; 12(6 Suppl):S152-6

Abstract

INTRODUCTION: Recent public health emergencies, such as the 2009 Influenza A/H1N1 Pandemic and Hurricane Katrina, underscore the importance of developing healthcare response plans and protocols for disasters impacting large populations. Significant research and scholarship, including the 2009 Institute of Medicine report on crisis standards of care and the 2008 Task Force for Mass Critical Care recommendations, provide guidance for healthcare responses to catastrophic emergencies. Most of these efforts recognize but do not focus on the unique needs of pediatric populations. In 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention supported the formation of a task force to address pediatric emergency mass critical care response issues, including legal issues. Liability is a significant concern for healthcare practitioners and facilities during pediatric emergency mass critical care that necessitates a shift to crisis standards of care. This article describes the legal considerations inherent in planning for and responding to catastrophic health emergencies and makes recommendations for pediatric emergency mass critical care legal preparedness. METHODS: The Pediatric Emergency Mass Critical Care Task Force, composed of 36 experts from diverse public health, medical, and disaster response fields, convened in Atlanta, GA, on March 29-30, 2010, to review the pediatric emergency mass critical care recommendations developed by a 17-member steering committee. During the meeting, experts determined that the recommendations would be strengthened by a manuscript addressing legal issues. Authors drafted the manuscript through consensus-based study of peer-reviewed research, literature reviews, and expert opinion. The manuscript was reviewed by Pediatric Emergency Mass Critical Care Steering Committee members and additional legal counsel and revised. TASK FORCE RECOMMENDATIONS: While the legal issues associated with providing pediatric emergency mass critical care are not unique within the overall context of disaster healthcare, the scope of the parens patriae power of states, informed consent principles, and security should be considered in pediatric emergency mass critical care planning and response efforts because parents and legal guardians may be unavailable to participate in healthcare decision making during disasters. In addition, practitioners who follow properly vetted and accepted pediatric emergency mass critical care disaster protocols in good faith should be protected from civil liability, and healthcare facilities that provide pediatric care should incorporate informed consent and security protocols into their disaster plans.

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