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Debunked: No, parents will not receive a consent form to let schools make medical decisions for children

The claim was widely shared on Facebook.

SEVERAL FACEBOOK POSTS have claimed that parents are set to receive a consent form that would allow schools to take medical decisions on behalf of children without the involvement of parents. 

One post, which currently has been shared over 320 times, claims that “parents are to receive a consent form over the next week or so. Do not sign away your rights to make medical decisions for your child”. 

“If you have already given your child’s school permission to make medical decisions for your child should they be unable to contact you, retract this immediately in writing.”

This claim is false. Parents are not being asked to ‘sign away’ consent nor have forms been sent out to families. 

Factcheck Source: Facebook

The claim

The post, which was widely shared earlier this month ahead of pupils returning to school, suggests that the Covid-19 pandemic will see a form sent out “over the next week or so” to parents. 

The claim doesn’t specify who will send this form to parents. 

But it warns parents that “if you have already given your child’s school permission to make medical decisions for your child should they be unable to contact you, retract this immediately in writing”. 

Similar false claims have circulated in the UK that children can be taken out of school to be tested for coronavirus and detained for two weeks without parental consent or knowledge. 

In recent weeks, there has been widespread discussion of what schools will look like once they return fully and what protocols are in place to cope with a potential outbreak of Covid-19.

And while some of the details are not yet known, asking parents to give schools permission to take medical decisions on behalf of their children is not one of the measures being considered introduced. 

“Parental consent for medical matters relating to their children remains as is and there is no suggestion at this time that there would be any Covid-19 testing in schools,” a spokesperson for the Department of Education told TheJournal.ie. 

“The public health team in the HSE are managing the testing and tracing regime nationally for suspected cases of Covid-19.”

In Ireland, parental consent is typically required for children to have medical tests and procedures – this includes vaccinations and inoculations. Children over the age of 16 can give consent themselves to medical procedures. 

Parents or guardians have to provide consent for children to receive vaccines as part of the school immunisation programme. 

The HSE also has a national consent policy, which looks at the role parents play in providing consent to treatments and healthcare for children. 

It states:

Parents and legal guardians are generally considered best placed to safeguard the health and wellbeing of their children. Parents, legal guardians and health and social care professionals have a responsibility to act in the best interests of children and to care for them in a manner that respects their dignity and wellbeing.

The Department of Health has also stressed that not every child asked not to attend school because of Covid-19 symptoms will be tested. Instead, health officials have said that a decision on whether to test a child or not is a matter for the child’s GP. 

HSE and Health Protection Surveillance Centre guidance on testing children aged between three months and aged 13 sets out the role of parents can play in keeping symptomatic children at home and makes no mention of schools making medical decisions on behalf of pupils. 

Other details on testing – how and when students and staff in schools will be tested for coronavirus – are still being finalised by the HSE. 

But health officials have said that the parents of a child considered a close contact of a confirmed case would be contacted by the HSE. 

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Consent forms are not being sent out by either the Department of Education or individual schools. Parents will still retain control of the medical treatment of their children. 

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There is a lot of false news and scaremongering being spread in Ireland at the moment about coronavirus. Here are some practical ways for you to assess whether the messages that you’re seeing – especially on WhatsApp – are true or not.

STOP, THINK AND CHECK

Look at where it’s coming from. Is it someone you know? Do they have a source for the information (e.g. the HSE website) or are they just saying that the information comes from someone they know? A lot of the false news being spread right now is from people claiming that messages from ‘a friend’ of theirs. Have a look yourself – do a quick Google search and see if the information is being reported elsewhere.

Secondly, get the whole story, not just a headline. A lot of these messages have got vague information (“all the doctors at this hospital are panicking”) and don’t mention specific details. This is often – but not always a sign – that it may not be accurate.

Finally, see how you feel after reading it. A lot of these false messages are designed to make people feel panicked. They’re deliberately manipulating your feelings to make you more likely to share it. If you feel panicked after reading something, check it out and see if it really is true.

Have you gotten a message on WhatsApp or Facebook or Twitter about coronavirus that you’re not sure about and want us to check it out? Message or mail us and we’ll look into debunking it. WhatsApp: 085 221 4696 or Email: answers@thejournal.ie 

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here

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