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The sufficiency of a minor's consent depends upon his ability to understand and comprehend the nature of the surgical procedure, the risks involved, and the probability of attaining the desired results in the light of the circumstances that attend.
The defendant doctor was an osteopath who treated the plaintiff patient’s back by manipulative therapy. After the treatment, plaintiff began to experience difficulty in walking and driving. Later in the evening, she was no longer able to walk by herself. Plaintiff had to be admitted in a hospital where a laminectomy was performed. Subsequently, plaintiff instituted a complaint against defendant doctor alleging medical malpractice, battery for failure to obtain parental consent, negligent failure to obtain consent, and failure to obtain informed consent. The trial court directed a verdict on the malpractice claim. The jury returned a verdict for defendant on the remaining issues. The appellate court reversed as to the claim for battery because the trial court gave a mature minor jury instruction. Defendant sought review with respect to the decision of the appellate court on plaintiff’s claim for battery.
Did the trial court err in giving a mature minor jury instruction, thereby warranting the reversal of the trial court’s judgment in favor of the defendant with respect to the claim for battery?
The court reversed the appellate court on the issue of battery and reinstated the judgment of the trial court. The court recognized the mature minor exception to the general common law that required parental consent to treat a minor. Under the mature minor exception to the general common law, the consent may still be effective if given by a child, if such child was capable of appreciating the nature, extent and probable consequences of the conduct consented to. In this case, the court noted that the plaintiff was seventeen years old, intelligent and capable for her age. She was adequately informed and she gave effective consent by conduct. By presenting herself to defendant for examination and treatment, and then, by submitting to treatment without protest or resistance, defendant could reasonably conclude that he had plaintiff’s consent to the treatment.