Are we liable if we can’t give a vaccine to a child whose parent can’t physically restrain that child?

By | 2022-02-11T11:27:08-05:00 March 17th, 2010|2 Comments

Question:

Dear Nancy,

We work in an immunization clinic for a county health department that provides immunization clinics for children two days a week. Our concern is uncontrollable clients and the parameters that constitute battery when restraint is necessary. Is it our role to help a parent physically restrain a child? Are we liable if we don’t provide a vaccine if the parent cannot restrain his or her child?

Jack

Nancy Brent replies:

Dear Jack:

Basically, a battery is an intentional tort and occurs whenever there is forceful, unpermitted and harmful contact with another (Black’s Law Dictionary. 2nd Pocket Edition. 2001). In the situation where healthcare is being provided, a battery can take place whenever healthcare is provided that is not consented to, for example. In the situation described in your question, the parent is bringing the child into the clinic for immunizations. Since the parent is the legal consent giver for minor patients (with some exceptions, of course), the consent of the parent exists to give the immunization and to do so safely. Reasonable restraint of the child is therefore necessary in some instances.

Clearly, reasonable restraint policies, with continued consent by the parent to use the restraint to administer the immunization safely, is essential. If the parent withdraws the consent (e.g., “Forget about this. It is too scary for my son”), then no further restraint, or the administration of the vaccine, is possible.

Whatever the circumstances of a difficult situation clinic staff face in the administering of immunizations, clear, complete, accurate and timely documentation of the circumstances needs to occur. Documenting the role of the consent giver is important to include. What the consent giver said, what he or she did, including a decision to forgo the immunization and/or restraint, is necessary.

A consent form developed and used by staff that is clear and inclusive of what is needed for the immunization to take place is a good tool that can be used by all staff to ensure compliance with the legal requirements of informed consent by the parent or other legally authorized consent giver and to avoid battery allegations. Sharing your concerns with the clinic CNO, medical director and risk manager would be a start in helping staff feel more comfortable with their role in the administration of immunizations.

Cordially,
Nancy

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2 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Angel Garcia November 22, 2021 at 2:44 pm - Reply

    Parent of a 12-year-old special child. He is 5’4″ tall about 120lbs. Physically he is bigger and a lot stronger. Can’t seem to restrain him any more for his shots. Is there another way he can get the shots maybe by medicating him or is there other options instead of shots. With Covid-19 I’m really concerned and scared that he could get it. Any info will be appreciated. Thank you.

    • Sallie Jimenez
      Sallie Jimenez December 1, 2021 at 11:48 am - Reply

      Hello Angel,

      Unfortunately, we cannot offer medical advice. Your child’s primary care provider should probably be able to offer suggestions. There are also helpful resources you can find online that can connect you with parents and families in similar situations. Please make sure any advice you find online is sound by consulting with your primary care provider. I hope you find the answers you seek and wish you and your family the best.

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