Through public internet group chats, I was able to meet a 16 year old girl that suffers from a medical condition on her feet. She lives in Washington, US, but in a neglectful household where her parents pay little attention to her.

According to the doctors she has seen her feet will have to be amputated some day, but not in the near future, meaning that she will probably still have around ten years to pay for the surgery after becoming an adult.

She seems to be already assuming that nor she nor her parents will pay for the surgery, so that she will simply lose her feet. I wonder however what her options are.


My concerns are the following: what if, as an adult, she needs the surgery but is incapable of getting it due to lack of money?

Are there any laws that will grant her the right to a free surgery since she is underage?

Are her parents spared from paying for the surgery because she will have the option to pay for it herself one she is an adult?


I would really appreciate any help.

  • 2
    Sadly, she had the bad luck to be born in the USA, in any other first world country the surgery would have already happened at no or nominal cost to her. – Dale M Apr 13 at 7:40
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    This is borderline trolling, or else a likely scam: Reasonable medical procedures "to save life and limb" of minors and indigents – yes, even in the U.S. – are provided under a number of government programs, for which Medicaid serves as a sort of clearing house. If you have a specific legal question, I suggest you rephrase it without allusion to an anecdote that seems either unlikely or mysteriously lacking in detail. – feetwet Apr 13 at 13:03
  • Could you direct me to one of those specific programs? Also, no, I'm not trolling. I don't know the girl personally so it is possible the information she has given is inaccurate. One more thing, it isn't necessary for her to get the surgery in the next two years, so she will still have the option to get the surgery as an adult, I don't know if this changes anything (legally). – Leo Apr 13 at 16:37
  • @Leo have you considered the possibility that the girl is actually an imposter who hopes to get money from you? – phoog Apr 14 at 21:52
  • @phoog. Honestly, yes, and you might as well be right, but I cannot know either way. I therefore think is immoral to dismiss her (possible) problem under the assumption that she is an imposter. – Leo Apr 15 at 2:10
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Parents have a legal obligation to care for their minor children: it is illegal to harm a child through action or inaction. State law and associated welfare programs are complex: you can start here. If surgery is medically necessary, her insurance should cover it. If her parent do not have medical insurance, they still have the obligation of care; though various governmental programs may alleviate the problem, such as the state medical assistance program. The parents may therefore be in violation of the law, and anyone may report this to DSHS (specifically through Child Protective Services). This obligation terminates when the child turns 18 (assuming that someone does not petition for adult guardianship).

Legislation is not crystal clear as far as what constitutes "injury of a child ...under circumstances which cause harm to the child's health". CPS has no authority to compel parents to pay for a medical treatment, but they can go to the courts on behalf of the child. At that point, it's hard to say what the court would order. For example, if the parents are capable of providing medical insurance and just willfully chose to not cover their child, the court could order them to get insurance. It is virtually guaranteed that the courts would not order the immediate amputation of the child's feet, and there would be no legal basis for ordering the parents to pay for the procedure in a decade, after the child is an adult. However, if you are suggesting that there is an immediate treatment (which the parents have opted to not provide, hence the prospects of later amputation), then it is reasonably likely that the courts would order the parents to provide for the treatment (if it would be possible for them; otherwise, the state may intervene and provide for the treatment).

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