MINORS’ CONSENT TO MEDICAL TREATMENT
1. General rule: minors are not legally competent to consent to medical treatment.
2. Exceptions: authority of minors to consent is legally recognized in some circumstances:
a. Emancipated minors
b. Minor parents
c. Reproductive issues
d. Venereal disease
e. Drug abuse
3. Refusal of treatment: minors are not legally competent to refuse medical treatment which is in their best interests.
CONSENT TO TREATMENT
Under Georgia law, the age of majority is 18 years, and every person younger than 18 is a minor.1 As a general rule, minors by law are considered not mentally competent to consent to medical treatment.2 Parents, and persons temporarily standing “in loco parentis,” are authorized to consent to medical or surgical treatment for minors.3
There are several exceptions to this general rule, which are described below. An emancipated minor may give legally binding consent to medical treatment in the same way as an adult.4 In addition, certain mature minor statutes allow unemancipated minors to get medical treatment for specific medical conditions without their parents’ consent, or perhaps even their parents’ knowledge. If he or she is otherwise mentally competent to consent, a minor may give valid consent to medical or surgical treatment under the following circumstances:
Until age 18, a child by law remains under the care and control of his or her parents.5 A minor is automatically emancipated from legal control of the parents upon reaching the age of majority.6A minor may become emancipated in Georgia before turning 18 by getting married7or by supporting himself or herself financially with the consent of the parents.8 Unemancipated minors are subject to the power of the parent or guardian, but emancipated minors are not.9
Married Minors. Marriage results in the automatic emancipation of a minor in Georgia. Under the Georgia Medical Consent Law, a married minor is authorized to give consent for medical and surgical treatment for himself and for his spouse.0
Other Emancipated Minors. Georgia law does not specifically provide that unmarried emancipated minors are empowered to give valid consent for their health care. Because emancipation relieves parents of the obligation to provide care and support for their children, however, it would seem logical to assume that all emancipated minors, whether married or not, have the authority to consent to their own medical treatment.1
Under the Georgia Medical Consent Law, a minor who is a parent is authorized to give consent for medical or surgical treatment for his or her minor child.2 This is true whether the minor is married or unmarried, emancipated or unemancipated. Georgia law thus allows an unmarried, unemancipated minor parent to consent to any and all appropriate medical treatment for her child.
Under current judicial interpretation of Georgia law, bearing a child does not automatically result in the emancipation of a minor.3 Thus, under the general rule above that minors are legally incompetent to consent to medical treatment , an unmarried minor parent may still be legally incapable of giving valid consent for her own medical treatment.4 For example, an unmarried minor parent may be legally authorized to consent to an appendectomy for her child, but not for herself. [DRAFT: the Georgia courts have never had to directly confront this paradox in any case, and it is possible that they would interpret the common law differently. EXPLAIN]
Although the Georgia Medical Consent Law empowers both minor parents to consent to treatment for their minor children, another statute gives primary authority to the mother to make such treatment decisions when the parents are unmarried. This other law provides that only the mother of a child born out of wedlock is entitled to custody of the child, unless the father legitimates the child.5 Absent such legitimation, the mother may exercise all parental power over the child,6 presumably including the power to consent to health care treatment.
MATURE MINOR STATUTES
Georgia law provides a number of specific statutory exceptions to the general rule that minors are not legally competent to consent to medical treatment. Sometimes referred to as mature minor statutes, these laws expressly permit minors to obtain medical treatment for specific health conditions or illnesses without parental consent.
Other states have recognized a broader principle under their common law which recognizes the legal right of “mature” minors to consent to medical treatment more generally, beyond the specifically enumerated statutory exceptions.7 Only one court has ever considered whether Georgia common law recognizes this more general “mature minor” principle to medical consent. That case involved the refusal by a 16_year_old Jehovah’s Witness patient to consent to a blood transfusion. A federal court ruled that Georgia would not recognize a general common law right of “mature” minors to refuse medical treatment.8 The court based its conclusion in part on the existence of Georgia statutes which expressly allow minors to consent to medical treatments in certain circumstances (married minors, minor parents) and for specific medical conditions (described below).9
To date, however, a Georgia state court has not considered whether the Georgia common law would recognize a general “mature minor” principle to medical consent. Thus, except for cases involving abortion or minor parents, the following statutes provide the only clear instances when unemancipated minors may give legally valid consent to medical treatment.
Reproductive Issues. Under the Georgia Medical Consent Law, any female, regardless of age or marital status, is authorized to give consent for herself in connection with pregnancy, pregnancy prevention, or childbirth.0 Thus, any pregnant minor may give valid consent for obstetrical treatment in connection with her pregnancy, labor, and delivery. This statute also authorizes female minors to consent to medical treatment for pregnancy prevention, or birth control. Abortion, however, is treated differently, and special rules govern a minor’s consent to an abortion (discussed below).1 In addition, unless they are married, minors are not authorized to consent to sterilization.2
Venereal Diseases. Under Georgia law, the term “venereal disease” refers to syphilis, gonorrhea, and chancroid.3 A minor who is afflicted with a venereal disease may give valid consent to medical or surgical treatment in connection with the conditions or illnesses arising out of the disease.4 The consent of no other person (such as a parent, spouse, custodian, or guardian) needs to be obtained in order to authorize the treatment of the minor for any of these venereal diseases.
The treating health professionals may, but are not required, to inform the minor’s parents, spouse, custodian, or guardian about the venereal_disease treatment given to or needed by the minor.5 Such information may be given to, or withheld from, these people without the minor’s consent, and even over the express refusal of the minor to the provision of such information to them.
Drug Abuse. Similar laws apply to minors who are, or profess to be, suffering from drug abuse.6 Such minors may validly consent to medical or surgical care in connection with conditions or illnesses arising about of their drug abuse, and the consent of no other person is required to authorize such treatment. Similarly, the treating health professionals may, but are not obligated, to inform the minor’s parents, spouse, custodian, or guardian about the drug_abuse treatment given to or needed by the minor. Such information may be given to these people without the minor’s consent, and even over his or her express objection.7
General Law. Under Georgia law, no abortion may be performed after the first trimester of pregnancy unless the abortion is performed in a licensed hospital or licensed abortion facility.8 No abortion may be performed after the second trimester unless the pregnant woman’s treating physician and two consulting physicians certify that, in their best clinical judgment, an abortion is necessary to preserve the woman’s life or health.9 In a late stage abortion, if the product of the abortion is capable of meaningful or sustained life, medical treatment must be rendered.0
The United States Supreme Court, first in Roe v. Wade1 and later in Planned Parenthood v. Casey,2 has recognized a woman’s constitutional right to have an abortion. This right to an abortion is not an absolute, unqualified right.3 The times and circumstances under which a woman may obtain an abortion may be regulated by the state, so long as the state, by its regulations, does not impose an undue burden on the right to an abortion.4
The Supreme Court has recognized that this constitutional right to an abortion extends to minors, but has permitted increased state regulation when the abortion involves a pregnant minor.5 Specifically, the Supreme Court has upheld state regulations which require parental notification of the minor’s parents that the minor is seeking an abortion.6 Georgia has adopted the following law governing abortion involving a pregnant minor, and the law has been upheld by a federal appeals court.7
Georgia Parental Notification Act. This law applies to unemancipated minors, which are defined as persons under the age of 18 who are not or have not been married, or who are under the care and custody of their parents, guardian, person standing “in loco parentis,” or a juvenile court.8 The law applies to all unemancipated minors in Georgia, whether or not they are residents of the state.9 The law does not apply when the attending physician determines, in his or her best clinical judgment, that a medical emergency exists which so complicates the pregnant minor’s condition as to require an immediate abortion.0
The law prohibits performing an abortion on an unemancipated minor unless either (1) the minor’s parent (or guardian or person standing in loco parentis) has been notified of the pending abortion, or (2) the minor seeks the permission of a court to waive parental notification. (To avoid repetition for the purposes of this discussion, whenever reference is hereafter made to a “parent,” it should be understood also to include reference in the alternative to a guardian or person standing in loco parentis.) Both the notification procedure and the judicial by_pass procedure for the waiver of parental notification are described below.
Procedure for Parental Notification. Unless the pregnant minor seeks to have this notification requirement waived by a court order, an abortion may not be performed on her unless:
(A) she furnishes a statement signed by a parent that the parent has been notified of the pending abortion; OR
(B) the physician gives at least 24 hours’ actual notice, in person or by telephone, to a parent of the pending abortion and the name and address where the abortion is to be performed; OR
(C) the physician gives written notice to a parent of the pending abortion and the name and address where the abortion is to be performed. This written notice may be sent by regular mail, and is deemed to have been delivered 48 hours after mailing. The abortion may be performed 24 hours after delivery of the notice.1
However notice is given under the three options above, the minor must also sign a consent form stating that she consents, freely and without coercion, to the abortion.2
Judicial By_Pass Procedure for Waiver of Parental Notification. A pregnant minor may petition any juvenile court for a waiver of the parental notification requirement.3 A court hearing must be held within three days of the filing of the petition, or the petition will be deemed granted.4 The court hearing must be conducted in a manner that is as expeditious as possible and that preserves the complete anonymity of the minor.5 The parental notification requirement must be waived if the court finds either:
(A) that the minor is mature enough and well enough informed to make the abortion decision in consultation with her physician and independently of her parent’s wishes; OR
(B) that notice to a parent would not be in the minor’s best interests.6
If the court denies a waiver of notice, the minor is entitled to an expedited appeal, which also must maintain her complete anonymity.7 Health care providers who act in good faith in relying on the representations of the pregnant minor and in providing professional services under this law are immune from criminal and civil liability for such reliance.8
REFUSAL OF TREATMENT
Generally. The Georgia Medical Consent Law expressly recognizes that persons age 18 and over have the legal right to refuse to consent to medical treatment.9 The law does not address the rights of minors to refuse medical treatment, however. In Novak v. Cobb County_Kennestone Hospital Authority,0 a lower federal court ruled that Georgia law provides no “mature minor” exception to its general rule that only adults may refuse unwanted medical care.
In that case, 16_year_old Gregory Novak suffered serious injuries from an automobile accident and was taken to Kennestone Hospital’s emergency room. A Jehovah’s Witness, Gregory repeatedly stated that for religious reasons, he did not wish to have any blood transfusions. The doctors performed surgery for his injuries without the need for any blood transfusions. During his recovery period at the hospital, however, the doctors became concerned about declines in his Hemoglobin and Hematocrit readings. Based on his blood test results, they were convinced that Gregory’s life was in danger if he did not receive a blood transfusion. Gregory and his mother, also a Jehovah’s Witness, resolutely refused to consent to his receiving any blood. Hospital attorneys then sought and obtained a court order authorizing the doctors to give Gregory a blood transfusion. Gregory was physically restrained, transfused with three units of packed red blood cells, and ultimately recovered well from his injuries.1
Gregory and his mother later sued the hospital, hospital official, doctors, and attorneys. In dismissing all of the claims, the lower federal court held that a minor did not have the right under Georgia law to refuse unwanted medical treatment.2 The federal appellate court affirmed the lower court’s decision on different grounds, without directly ruling on the question of a minor’s right to refuse medical treatment.3
[DRAFT: the leading Georgia case on parental refusal of treatment for a minor is In Re L.H.R., 321 S.E.2d 716 (Ga. 1984). The Georgia Supreme Court ruled in this case that the right to refuse medical life_sustaining treatment in the event of a terminal illness (a right recognized by the Living Will statute, by the way) rises to the level of a constitutional right which, according to the court, “is not lost because of the incompetence or youth of the patient.”4 Reconcile with Novak (terminal illness v. non_terminal illness?). EXPLAIN and DISCUSS.]
DNR Orders. Under Georgia law, a competent adult may instruct health care providers to refrain from cardiopulmonary resuscitation by consenting to the entry of a do_not_resuscitate (DNR) order. 5 An “adult” is defined under this statute as any person who is 18 years of age or older, is the parent of a child, or has married.6 Thus, married minors and minor parents are considered “adults” for the purposes of the DNR statute.
In the case of all other minor patients, parental consent is needed to authorize a DNR order for a minor child who is a candidate for nonresuscitation. To be a candidate for nonresuscitation, the minor must be a patient who is determined by the attending physician, with the concurrence of another physician and to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, to:
(A) Have a medical condition which can reasonably be expected to result in the minor’s imminent death; OR
(B) Be in a noncognitive state with no reasonable possibility of regaining cognitive functions; OR
(C) Be a patient for whom cardiopulmonary resuscitation would be medically futile.7
If at any time the attending physician determines that a minor patient no longer qualifies as a candidate for nonresuscitation, the physician must cancel the order and notify the parents.8
If the minor is “mature,” then the minor, in addition to the parents, must authorize the entry of a DNR order. The statute provides that if, in the opinion of the attending physician, the minor is of “sufficient maturity to understand the nature and effect” of a DNR order, then no order is valid without the minor’s consent to it.9 Both the minor patient and the parents have the right to revoke their consent to a DNR order at any time.0
[DRAFT: leading Georgia case on DNR orders for minors is In Re Jane Doe, 418 S.E.2d 3 (Ga. 1992). EXPLAIN and DISCUSS]
Advance Directives. Georgia’s Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Act makes no express reference to the rights of minors to execute a durable power of attorney for health care; it simply refers generally to the rights of ‘“individuals” to execute this type of advance directive.1 Since unemancipated minors are presumptively under the care and control of their parents, however, it is their parents who are legally empowered to make health care decisions for them.2 Hence, there will usually be no need to designate another surrogate to make health care decisions for the minor. Whether a minor could legally choose to appoint a different surrogate to make health care decisions on his or her behalf is not addressed by the Act.
Under Georgia’s Living Will statute, the right of a competent adult to make an advance directive known as a living will is recognized.3 There is no express statutory provision which authorizes minors to create a living will, however.
1. O.C.G.A. § 39_1_1(a) (“The age of legal majority in this state is 18 years; until that age all persons are minors.”).
2. Willard Gaylin, Competence: No Longer All or None, in Who Speaks for the Child? 27 (Willard Gaylin & Ruth Macklin, eds., 1982); Alexander M. Capron, The Competence of Children as Self_Deciders in Biomedical Interventions, in Who Speaks for the Child?, supra at 57, 61. [DRAFT: Is there a better cite for this? CHECK]
3. O.C.G.A. § 31_9_2(a)(2), (3). [DRAFT: get Black’s law dictionary definition of “in loco parentis.”]
4. [DRAFT: See note 6 below. This is in general a fair statement (cite Wadlington, Morrissey, Meisel, etc), but Georgia statutes (unlike N.C., Miss. and Ark.) do not expressly state this. CHECK]
5. O.C.G.A. § 19_7_1 (“Until he reaches the age of majority, the child shall remain under the control of the his parents, who are entitled to his services and the proceeds of his labor.”).
6. See 1972 Op. Att’y Gen. No. 72_118 (the age of majority reflects the age of emancipation from legal custody and control of the parents).
7. Irby v. State, 57 Ga. App. 717 (1938) (marriage emancipates child as effectively as reaching the age of majority, and she is thereafter to be considered as an adult). See O.C.G.A. § 19_7_1(b)(5) (parental power is lost by parent’s “consent to the marriage of the child, who thus assumes inconsistent responsibilities”). CHECK: minor must obtain parental consent for marriage??
8. O.C.G.A. § 19_7_1(b)(4) (parental power is lost by parental “consent to the child’s receiving the proceeds of this own labor, which consent shall be revocable at any time”). Under Georgia law, emancipation can arise only under the terms of O.C.G.A. § 19_7_1. Rose v. Hamilton Medical Center, 361 S.E.2d 1 (Ga. App. 1987). [DRAFT: are these the only 2 sections of this statute which result in “emancipation”? Surely the other 4 sections (voluntary contract releasing parental right to third party; consent to adoption of child by third person; failure to provide necessaries for child or abandonment; or cruel treatment) may result in parental power being lost, but not in child’s “emancipation”? CHECK]
9. Street v. Cobb County School District, 520 F. Supp. 1170 (N.D. Ga. 1981).
0. O.C.G.A. § 31_9_2(a)(3).
1. [DRAFT: O.C.G.A. § 19_7_2 provides that “[I]t is the joint and several duty of each parent to provide for the maintenance, protection, and education of his or her child until the child reaches the age of majority, dies, marries, or becomes emancipated, whichever occurs first . . . .” The Medical Consent law clearly specifies that married minors may consent to medical treatment, but it does not state that emancipated minors in general may consent to medical treatment. Nor does there seem to be any law directly about what rights emancipated minors have. SEE MY COVER NOTES __ CHECK]
2. O.C.G.A. § 31_9_2(a)(2) (“In the absence or unavailability of a living spouse, any parent, whether an adult or minor, [is authorized to consent to treatment] for his minor child.”).
3. Hicks v. Fulton County Dept. of Family and Children Services, 270 S.E.2d 254 (Ga. App. 1980) (holding that fact that minor had abandoned her father’s home and had born an illegitimate child did not establish that minor was emancipated). [DRAFT: But see observation to the contrary by Supreme Court, without citation to authority: “In addition, the fact of having a child brings with it adult legal responsibility, for parenthood, like attainment of the age of majority, is one of the traditional criteria for the termination of the legal disabilities of minority.” Bellotti v. Baird, 443 U.S. 622, 642 (1979). Hicks suggests otherwise in Georgia? CHECK.]
4. [DRAFT: CONTRARY AUTHORITY: one author suggests that “in all cases, minor parents are considered emancipated and may consent . . . to their own health care as well. The absence of a specific permissory statute is not important.” James Morrissey et al., Consent and Confidentiality in the Health Care of Children and Adolescents 43 (1986). Georgia attorneys I know suggest that the paradoxical position (OK minor’s consent for child, not OK consent for minor herself) is true in Georgia, contrary to Morrissey. Hicks would seem to mean Morrissey is wrong about Georgia, but the Supreme Court seems to accord with Morrissey. CHECK]
5. O.C.G.A. § 19_7_25. A father may legitimate a child by formally petitioning the appropriate court for a court order of legitimation. O.C.G.A. § 19_7_22. The marriage between the mother and the reputed father of a child born out of wedlock and the father’s recognition of the child as his also renders the child legitimate. O.C.G.A. § 19_7_20(c).
6. O.C.G.A. § 19_7_25. Whether or not the child is legitimated, both parents of a child born out of wedlock have the obligation to provide for the child’s support. O.C.G.A. § 19_7_24 (“It is the joint and several duty of each parent of a child born out of wedlock to provide for the maintenance, protection, and education of the child until he reaches the age of majority . . . .”). DRAFT: An interesting question is whether this gives the mother exclusive power to make medical treatment decisions. The implication of this statute is that she does, but case law has language suggesting, in other contexts, that “even though the mother of an illegitimate child is entitled to custody, the putative father has rights and duties with respect to the child.” Strickland v. State, 211 Ga. App. 48 (1993). CHECK: do father’s “rights” extend to decisions over the child’s medical treatment? What would happen in the case of conflict? Would LHR apply (case involved two previously married parents, and legitimate child), or does this statute control, suggesting that mother has prima facie right to control decision (e.g., termination of treatment) over father’s objection?
7. [DRAFT: CITE]
8. Novak v. Cobb County_Kennestone Hosp. Auth., 849 F. Supp. 1559, 1576 (N.D. Ga. 1994) (“Court concludes that Georgia does not recognize the right of a ‘mature minor’ to refuse unwanted medical care”), aff’d on other grounds, 74 F.3d 1173 (11th Cir. 1996).
9. 849 F. Supp. at 1576 (“If minors, ‘mature’ or otherwise, possessed the power to consent to and/or refuse medical treatment, there would be no need for these statutory exceptions.”)
0. O.C.G.A. § 31_9_2(a)(5).
1. O.C.G.A. § 31_9_5 (“This chapter shall not apply in any manner whatsoever to abortion and sterilization procedures, which procedures shall continue to be governed by existing law independently of the terms and provisions of this chapter.”).
2. O.C.G.A. § 31_20_2.
3. O.C.G.A. § 31_17_1.
4. O.C.G.A. § 31_17_7(a).
5. O.C.G.A. § 31_17_7(b).
6. O.C.G.A. § 37_7_8(b) (consent to medical or surgical care by minor suffering from drug abuse “shall be as valid and binding as if the minor had achieved his majority” when given in relation to drug abuse illnesses). [DRAFT: This chapter on mental health law governing treatment of alcoholics, drug dependent individuals, and drug abusers seems to distinguish “alcoholic” from “drug abuser.” Does this mean that minor can seek treatment for drug abuse, but not for alcoholism? “Drug” in section on minors is defined under 26_3_2, dangerous drug under 16_13_71, controlled substance under 16_13_21, and narcotic drug under 16_13_21. Do these provisions exclude alcohol? The statute on treatment of alcoholics and intoxicated persons, §§ 37_8_1 through 37_8_54 seems to have been repealed in 1994. JS paper suggests that some other state statutes are like Georgia in not indicating whether drug abuse includes alcohol abuse, but the majority of other state statutes do indicate coverage of both drug and alcohol abuse. Cites Morrissey for statutes mentioning both drugs and alcohol, and for opining that “even the statutes that do not specifically include alcohol abuse allow interpretation inclusive of this adolescent problem.” See James Morrissey, Consent and Confidentiality in the Health Care of Children and Adolescents 75 (1986). CHECK.]
7. O.C.G.A. § 37_7_8(c).
8. O.C.G.A. § 16_12_141(b).
9. O.C.G.A. § 16_12_141.
1. 410 U.S. 113 (1973)( ).
2. 112 S.Ct. 2791 (1992)
3. Doe v. Bolton, 410 U.S. 179 (1973) (companion case to Roe, holding that pregnant woman does not have an absolute constitutional right to an abortion upon demand).
4. Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 112 S.Ct. 2791 (1992)
5. Bellotti v. Baird, 443 U.S. 622 (1979).
6. E.g., Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 112 S.Ct. 2791 (1992); Bellotti v. Baird, 443 U.S. 622 (1979). [DRAFT: other cases upholding regulation of minor’s right to abortion? Also clarify distinction between parental consent and parental notification in text? CHECK]
7. Planned Parenthood Ass’n v. Miller, 934 F.2d 1462 (1991) (holding that the requirements of the Georgia Parental Notification Act, taken together, do not unduly burden a minor’s abortion decision).
8. O.C.G.A. § 15_11_111(2).
9. O.C.G.A. § 15_11_115.
0. O.C.G.A. § 15_11_116.
1. O.C.G.A. §§ 15_11_112(a)(1)(A), (B), (C).
2. O.C.G.A. § 15_11_112(a)(2).
3. O.C.G.A. § 15_11_112(b) (the law does not limit this judicial by_pass procedure to any particular circumstances, but generally allows a minor to go to court if she elects to do so for whatever reason, or if her parent (or guardian or person standing in loco parentis cannot be located).
4. O.C.G.A. § 15_11_113. In addition, if the juvenile court fails to render its decision within 24 hours after the hearing, the minor’s petition will be deemed granted. O.C.G.A. § 15_11_114(d).
5. O.C.G.A. § 15_11_114(b). All juvenile court records pursuant to this hearing must be sealed in a manner to preserve anonymity. O.C.G.A. § 15_11_114(d).
6. O.C.G.A. § 15_11_114(c)(1), (2).
7. O.C.G.A. § 15_11_114(e).
8. O.C.G.A. § 15_11_117. Anyone who violates the law, however, or who intentionally encourages another to provide false information under the law is guilty of a misdemeanor. O.C.G.A. § 15_11_118.
9. O.C.G.A. § 31_9_7 (“Nothing contained in this chapter shall be construed to abridge any right of a person 18 years of age or over to refuse to consent to medical and surgical treatment as to his own person.”).
0. 849 F. Supp. 1559, 1559 (D. Ga. 1994), aff’d, 74 F.3d 1173 (11th Cir. 1996).
1. Id. at 1563_64.
2. Id. at 1576 (“Court concludes that Georgia does not recognize the right of a ‘mature minor’ to refuse unwanted medical care.”).
3. 74 F.3d 1173 (11th Cir. 1996). In a footnote, the appellate court cited the statute pertaining to the right of persons age 18 and over to refuse to consent to medical treatment, and observed: “As a minor, however, Novak could not withhold his consent to medical treatment.” Id. at 1174, n.1.
4. 321 S.E.2d 716, 722 (Ga. 1984).
5. O.C.G.A. §§ 31_39_1, 31_39_3(b), 31_39_4(a)
6. O.C.G.A. § 31_39_2(1).
7. O.C.G.A. § 31_39_2(4).
8. O.C.G.A. § 31_39_5(b).
9. O.C.G.A. § 31_39_4(d).
0. O.C.G.A. § 31_39_6(a), (b).
1. O.C.G.A. §§ 31_36_1 et seq.
2. O.C.G.A. § 31_9_2(a)(2).
3. O.C.G.A. § 31_32_1(d).