Parental Rights: Medical Decisions, Drug and Alcohol Treatment


Who can consent to drug and alcohol Treatment?

Under Pennsylvania law, a child of any age may consent to counseling or medical treatment related to drug and alcohol abuse. The consent of a minor in this case is valid and legally binding as if they are an adult. Parental consent is not necessary for diagnosis or treatment. Additionally, although providers may inform parents or guardians of a minor’s treatment or need for treatment, there is no legal duty that requires a drug and alcohol treatment program to notify parents or guardians of any treatment provided. A minor is able to provide consent for parental notification, but can also revoke that consent at any time. 

Parents may consent to a child’s treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. However, where a minor is unwilling to accept voluntary treatment, parents must follow the procedures outlined below:

Procedure for Involuntary Commitment:

Parents or guardians must file a petition for commitment of a child for involuntary drug and alcohol treatment, including inpatient services. 

This is a process that requires the following legal steps: 

1. A parent with legal or physical custody may petition the court of common pleas of the judicial district where the child lives if the child cannot or will not accept voluntary treatment. 

2. After a petition has been filed, the court will appoint counsel for the child and will order the child to undergo drug and alcohol assessment. 

3. The court will hold a hearing to examine the results from the assessment. 

4. Based on the results of the assessment, the court can order that the child be committed to involuntary treatment, including inpatient treatment, for up to 45 days. Before the period of 45 days is up, the court will determine whether or not further treatment is necessary and may order additional treatment periods of up to 45-days, as long as the child needs treatment. 


  • Pennsylvania Drug and Alcohol Abuse Act (71 P.S. §1690.112)

This information is a general summary intended to provide parents and legal guardians with an overview of their rights in the following three areas of decision-making and treatment for their children: medical treatment, mental health treatment, and drug and alcohol treatment. This summary is not a substitute for legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. If you are dealing with a specific legal problem, it is recommended that you consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable in the specific area of the law.