45 CFR Appendix C to Part 84, Guidelines Relating to Health Care for Handicapped Infants
(a)Interpretative guidelines relating to the applicability of this part to health care for handicapped infants. The following are interpretative guidelines of the Department set forth here to assist recipients and the public in understanding the Department's interpretation of section 504 and the regulations contained in this part as applied to matters concerning health care for handicapped infants. These interpretative guidelines are illustrative; they do not independently establish rules of conduct.
(1) With respect to programs and activities receiving Federal financial assistance, health care providers may not, solely on the basis of present or anticipated physical or mental impairments of an infant, withhold treatment or nourishment from the infant who, in spite of such impairments, will medically benefit from the treatment or nourishment.
(2) Futile treatment or treatment that will do no more than temporarily prolong the act of dying of a terminally ill infant is not considered treatment that will medically benefit the infant.
(3) In determining whether certain possible treatments will be medically beneficial to an infant, reasonable medical judgments in selecting among alternative courses of treatment will be respected.
(4) Section 504 and the provisions of this part are not applicable to parents (who are not recipients of Federal financial assistance). However, each recipient health care provider must in all aspects of its health care programs receiving Federal financial assistance provide health care and related services in a manner consistent with the requirements of section 504 and this part. Such aspects includes decisions on whether to report, as required by State law or otherwise, to the appropriate child protective services agency a suspected instance of medical neglect of a child, or to take other action to seek review or parental decisions to withhold consent for medically indicated treatment. Whenever parents make a decision to withhold consent for medically beneficial treatment or nourishment, such recipient providers may not, solely on the basis of the infant's present or anticipated future mental or physical impairments, fail to follow applicable procedures on reporting such incidents to the child protective services agency or to seek judicial review.
(5) The following are examples of applying these interpretative guidelines. These examples are stated in the context of decisions made by recipient health care providers. Were these decisions made by parents, the guideline stated in section (a)(4) would apply. These examples assume no facts or complications other than those stated. Because every case must be examined on its individual facts, these are merely illustrative examples to assist in understanding the framework for applying the nondiscrimination requirements of section 504 and this part.
(i) Withholding of medically beneficial surgery to correct an intestinal obstruction in an infant with Down's Syndrome when the withholding is based upon the anticipated future mental retardation of the infant and there are no medical contraindications to the surgery that would otherwise justify withholding the surgery would constitute a discriminatory act, violative of section 504.
(ii) Withholding of treatment for medically correctable physical anomalies in children born with spina bifida when such denial is based on anticipated mental impairment paralysis or incontinence of the infant, rather than on reasonable medical judgments that treatment would be futile, too unlikely of success given complications in the particular case, or otherwise not of medical benefit to the infant, would constitute a discriminatory act, violative of section 504.
(iii) Withholding of medical treatment for an infant born with anencephaly, who will inevitably die within a short period of time, would not constitute a discriminatory act because the treatment would be futile and do no more than temporarily prolong the act of dying.
(iv) Withholding of certain potential treatments from a severely premature and low birth weight infant on the grounds of reasonable medical judgments concerning the improbability of success or risks of potential harm to the infant would not violate section 504.
(b)Guidelines for HHS investigations relating to health care for handicapped infants. The following are guidelines of the Department in conducting investigations relating to health care for handicapped infants. They are set forth here to assist recipients and the public in understanding applicable investigative procedures. These guidelines do not establish rules of conduct, create or affect legally enforceable rights of any person, or modify existing rights, authorities or responsibilities pursuant to this part. These guidelines reflect the Department's recognition of the special circumstances presented in connection with complaints of suspected life-threatening noncompliance with this part involving health care for handicapped infants. These guidelines do not apply to other investigations pursuant to this part, or other civil rights statutes and rules. Deviations from these guidelines may occur when, in the judgment of the responsible Department official, other action is necessary to protect the life or health of a handicapped infant.
(1) Unless impracticable, whenever the Department receives a complaint of suspected life-threatening noncompliance with this part in connection with health care for a handicapped infant in a program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance, HHS will immediately conduct a preliminary inquiry into the matter by initiating telephone contact with the recipient hospital to obtain information relating to the condition and treatment of the infant who is the subject of the complaint. The preliminary inquiry, which may include additional contact with the complainant and a requirement that pertinent records be provided to the Department, will generally be completed within 24 hours (or sooner if indicated) after receipt of the complaint.
(2) Unless impracticable, whenever a recipient hospital has an Infant Care Review Committee, established and operated substantially in accordance with the provisions of 45 CFR 84.55(f), the Department will, as part of its preliminary inquiry, solicit the information available to, and the analysis and recommendations of, the ICRC. Unless, in the judgment of the responsible Department official, other action is necessary to protect the life or health of a handicapped infant, prior to initiating an on-site investigation, the Department will await receipt of this information from the ICRC for 24 hours (or less if indicated) after receipt of the complaint. The Department may require a subsequent written report of the ICRC's findings, accompanied by pertinent records and documentation.
(3) On the basis of the information obtained during preliminary inquiry, including information provided by the hospital (including the hospital's ICRC, if any), information provided by the complainant, and all other information obtained, the Department will determine whether there is a need for an on-site investigation of the complaint. Whenever the Department determines that doubt remains that the recipient hospital or some other recipient is in compliance with this part or additional documentation is desired to substantiate a conclusion, the Department will initiate an on-site investigation or take some other appropriate action. Unless impracticable, prior to initiating an on-site investigation, the Department's medical consultant (referred to in paragraph 6) will contact the hospital's ICRC or appropriate medical personnel of the recipient hospital.
(4) In conducting on-site investigations, when a recipient hospital has an ICRC established and operated substantially in accordance with the provisions of 45 CFR 84.55(f), the investigation will begin with, or include at the earliest practicable time, a meeting with the ICRC or its designees. In all on-site investigations, the Department will make every effort to minimize any potential inconvenience or disruption, accommodate the schedules of health care professionals and avoid making medical records unavailable. The Department will also seek to coordinate its investigation with any related investigations by the state child protective services agency so as to minimize potential disruption.
(5) It is the policy of the Department to make no comment to the public or media regarding the substance of a pending preliminary inquiry or investigation.
(6) The Department will obtain the assistance of a qualified medical consultant to evaluate the medical information (including medical records) obtained in the course of a preliminary inquiry or investigation. The name, title and telephone number of the Department's medical consultant will be made available to the recipient hospital. The Department's medical consultant will, if appropriate, contact medical personnel of the recipient hospital in connection with the preliminary inquiry, investigation or medical consultant's evaluation. To the extent practicable, the medical consultant will be a specialist with respect to the condition of the infant who is the subject of the preliminary inquiry or investigation. The medical consultant may be an employee of the Department or another person who has agreed to serve, with or without compensation, in that capacity.
(7) The Department will advise the recipient hospital of its conclusions as soon as possible following the completion of a preliminary inquiry or investigation. Whenever final administrative findings following an investigation of a complaint of suspected life-threatening noncompliance cannot be made promptly, the Department will seek to notify the recipient and the complainant of the Department's decision on whether the matter will be immediately referred to the Department of Justice pursuant to 45 CFR 80.8.
(8) Except as necessary to determine or effect compliance, the Department will (i) in conducting preliminary inquiries and investigations, permit information provided by the recipient hospital to the Department to be furnished without names or other identifying information relating to the infant and the infant's family; and (ii) to the extent permitted by law, safeguard the confidentiality of information obtained.