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Why St. Jude needs legal papers for medical care


St. Jude staff must make sure a parent, guardian, or other legal representative gives permission for your child’s medical care and treatment. This permission is called “consent.” The person who gives consent must be one of the following:

  • A parent who has legal custody.
  • The child’s legal representative, including a guardian, legal custodian, or the holder of a power of attorney for health care.
  • Other person with legal authority to consent under the applicable law, such as the court, a person appointed by the court, or a state agency.

Legal papers should show that the person who gives consent has a legal right to do so.

St. Jude needs legal papers in these cases:

  • When a minor child (under 18) registers at St. Jude for the first time.
  • When there is a change in the child’s family, such as a divorce, adoption, new custody arrangement, or when a new court order has been issued.
  • When parents are not married to each other.
  • When someone who is not a parent is coming with the child and wants or needs to consent.
  • When an adoption is not final but the court or the biological parent or guardian has given the adopting parent the right to consent.

In these cases, please bring legal papers when your child registers or returns to St. Jude. This helps your child get to appointments on time.

The St. Jude staff might also need to ask for legal papers in other situations that are unique to certain families. It is best to bring all legal papers with you just in case.

What legal papers should we bring?

Bring the most recent papers that clearly show who has custody and authority to make decisions. Bring any papers that address who may consent for medical treatment. The most common papers showing this are:

  • A parenting plan giving legal custody, signed by a judge or chancellor;
  • A court order giving legal custody;
  • A court order appointing a guardian or conservator for a child younger than 18;
  • A limited power of attorney to care for a child under 18; and
  • Court orders that show who is not allowed to make legal decisions for the child.

A request to the court, often called a "petition," is not enough to authorize someone to give consent. You need a parenting plan, court order, or power of attorney.

Who can give consent for medical treatment of children in Tennessee?

People who can give consent for medical treatment include the following:

  • A mother, including an adoptive mother (if the adoption is final).
  • A father, if married to the mother when the child was born or if he has legal custody or legal authority to provide consent. This may include an adoptive father if the adoption is final.
  • A person with a court order for legal custody or guardianship (depending on what the order says).
  • A person with power of attorney for a child younger than 18, if the power of attorney meets legal requirements.
  • A child who is married, in the military, or has been given adult status by a court (an “emancipated minor”).

Guidelines for specific situations

When parents are not married

In Tennessee, according to the law, a child’s mother has custody when the parents are not married. This is true even if the child was born somewhere else, the father’s name is on the birth certificate, or both. The father may give consent only when:

  • There is an emergency and the person with custody is not available;
  • The father has been given legal custody;
  • A court has given the father the right to consent to medical treatment; or
  • The mother signed a power of attorney for care of a child younger than 18, giving the father the right to consent.

If parents are divorced or separated, the St. Jude staff must see papers showing who has legal custody. This is true even if the child has been a St. Jude patient for a long time.

When someone else gives consent

If someone who is not a parent wants or needs to give consent, that person needs legal papers showing the authority to do so. These papers can be:

  • Court orders of legal custody or guardianship,
  • Limited power of attorney for care of a child younger than 18,
  • In loco parentis affidavit, or
  • Similar legal documents.

These documents are needed even if the person is a grandparent the child lives with or someone who is adopting the child (before the adoption is final).

What if we did not bring legal papers?

If you did not bring your legal papers to St. Jude, please have someone fax them to:

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Attn: Patient Registration (please include the name of the Patient Registration staff member if possible)
FAX: 901-595-3088

You can also have the papers scanned and emailed or sent by overnight mail. If sending by email, use this email address If sending by overnight mail, address to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Attn: Patient Registration, Mail stop 114, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN 38105-3678.


If you have questions about legal papers, please call Social Work at 901-595-3670 or Patient Registration at 901-595-2010. If you are outside the Memphis area, call toll-free 1-866-2STJUDE (1-866-278-5833), then ask for 3670 for Social Work or 2010 for Patient Registration.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

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