By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold, NJ Guardianship Attorney

Recently our office was involved with a situation where a physician who only works at a school for developmentally disabled individuals 32 hours per week, and who has no private practice, refused to sign a physician affidavit for a guardianship, as she feels she is a “resident physician” within R: 4:86-3. This rule prohibits key employees of a facility from participating in a guardianship proceeding. It would be very difficult to have this young lady examined by anyone outside of the institution.

The customary meaning of the term “resident physician,” (which is often shortened to “resident,”) is a physician who has completed medical school and is in training in a teaching hospital. Physicians need to complete a residency in order to characterize themselves as specializing in any particular field of medicine, including primary care fields such as family practice and internal medicine. Residency programs are labor-intensive and typically require 60-80 hours of work a week. It seems pretty clear that a doctor who works a 32-hour week is not a resident physician. Since any licensed physician is qualified to sign a guardianship affidavit, and since a physician can be licensed before completing a residency program, it is a fair inference that the term “resident physician” in R4:84-3 has the customary meaning.

The phrase “resident physician” is found in two places in statutes. In statutes dealing with the execution of death certificates (NJSA 26:6-8 et seq,), the phrase “attending, covering or resident physician” is used several times. In NJSA 49:9-21d, in a context of licensure of health care professionals, the phrase “resident physician” is used twice. In all of these uses, it is clear that the customary meaning of “resident physician” is intended.

It isn’t at all uncommon for doctors who are employees of a school or other institution not to want to be involved in a guardianship action against a student/resident. But it creates a host of residential problems when they won’t cooperate.

To discuss your NJ Guardianship matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com.  Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.