A Delaware County teen who was ordered by a judge to undergo surgery for a spinal injury was recovering Friday at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.
Mazzarati Mitchell,16, was taken into custody by Delaware County officials last week after he and his parents refused the surgery. The family’s lawyer, Michael Nix, said he expects the boy to return home after his hospital stay.
“I don’t expect there to be any objection to that from the Children and Youth Services,” Nix said. “If there is, then we would have to address it, I guess procedurally through the courts.”
After the surgery, the boy’s mom, Vermell Mitchell, an herbal healer, told reporters she was worried about her son’s recovery from what she called an unnecessary surgery.
Doctors told the teen he needed the surgery to prevent him from being paralyzed after he butted heads with another wrestler at a practice at Chichester High School last week. The family resisted, insisting he be treated by natural and homeopathic healing methods. He was then put in protective custody of the Delaware County Office of Children and Youth Services.
Riya Saha Shah, an attorney at Juvenile Law Center, said minors in Pennsylvania can consent to treatments such as reproductive health services and STD testing. When they’re 14, they can decide on in-patient mental health treatments. But in cases such as this, they’re not in charge.
“There’s actually nothing in Pennsylvania law that gives a minor above a certain age the ability to consent to all their medical and health-care services,” Saha Shah said.
In some states, children can petition to be declared “mature minors” at a certain age, which means they can make medical decisions for themselves, but not in Pennsylvania. Parents have that authority, but a court order can hand that authority over to officials.