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Will You Be Able to Help Your Eighteen-Year Old Child in a Medical Emergency?

It was October and her son was 270 miles away at college. Sheri Warsh received a phone call that her son was being rushed by ambulance to the hospital for severe chest pains. When Sheri called the ER for details, she was told that she had no right to talk to the doctor because her son was eighteen.

Can the hospital really do that to parents? Yes, the ER chose not to disclose her son’s medical condition due to the privacy rule of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Once your child turns eighteen, you as a parent have no more right to obtain medical information on your legal-age child than you do a stranger. This is true even if your child is on your health insurance and even if you’re paying the bill.

A medical provider can disclose protected health information to a family member without patient authorization if it serves the best interest of the patient. Often times, though, the provider will side with patience privacy, especially if they have not met the relative before.

Parents who want to continue as protectors and advisers in their child’s life should make legal preparations in case the unthinkable happens. There are three legal forms that will help you stay involved in your child’s life in a medical emergency: HIPAA authorization, healthcare power of attorney, and appointment of health care representative.

  • The HIPAA authorization permits health care providers to disclose your child’s health information to any person he/she chooses.

  • The healthcare power of attorney appoints an attorney-in-fact to make medical decisions on your child’s behalf if he/she becomes incapacitated.  

  • The healthcare representative that your child appoints will ensure that his/her wishes in the Living Will are enforced.

Many times, these documents are rolled into one – Advance Directives for Health Care.

It might be a good idea to scan these documents and save them so they are readily available on your smartphone or home computer. Our office can help you and your child in this very important matter. Your child only needs the legal names of the individuals he/she wants to appoint in the Advance Directives for Health Care. Then, your child will sign the document before two witnesses and a notary (all provided at our office). We will keep scanned copies at our office as well in case the originals are lost or destroyed.


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