If your child is going off to college and is already 18, now is the right time to talk to them about setting up a health care directive. Now that they’re over the age of 18, you no longer have the right to see their medical documents or make decisions on their behalf if they’re injured. Even though you’re their parent, that right no longer belongs to you without your child giving you that permission.
If you want to help your child in the case of a medical emergency, it’s time to talk to them about setting up a health care directive with someone established as their health care power of attorney.
What happens if you contact a hospital about your child when they’re over 18?
Unless you’re the health care power of attorney or your child has specifically released information to you, you won’t be able to ask doctors about your child’s condition. You will have no right, because your child is an adult and is in a position to make their own decisions about their care.
This is because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. HIPAA essentially makes your child a stranger to you in terms of your access to their legal documents once they turn 18. You no longer have the right to obtain their information, just as you’d have no right to obtain another random person’s information.
So, what can you do to make sure your child is protected?
Talk to your child about a health care directive and power of attorney
Your child should fill out the relative legal forms to make you their medical power of attorney or select someone else to fill that role. When they sign into a hospital or clinic, they also have forms to complete that will ask if they have others they’d like to release information to. With a HIPAA release done in advance, parents, friends, colleagues or others could be added and allowed to receive updates on the patient’s care.
It’s smart to take your child to see an attorney to set up the right documents. Then, take photos of the documents and keep them with you, so you can send them to any medical provider who needs them in the case of an emergency.