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Friday, March 31, 2017

Your College Student and Access to Medical Info

It’s the time of  year that brings high school seniors news of college acceptances. After 18 years of living under mom and dad’s roof,  your “baby” is moving away.  It’s an exciting time for kids, but an emotional time for parents.  You know how much you will miss your child, and distance won’t keep you from worrying about their well-being.  It’s no surprise that you wonder, “Have I done all that I can to keep them safe?”

Many parents are stunned to discover that in medical emergencies they may not be entitled to  information about their college-aged children. Why? Because in the eyes of the law, your 18-year old is an adult.  Legally, parents have no standing to know or do anything.

 In an emergency, how will health care providers determine whom to call with urgent news?  Will they know your child’s prior medical history?  Often times, they simply won’t.  What’s worse, even if a parent learns of a child’s illness or accident, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prohibits doctors and hospitals from providing information about an adult’s medical condition without his/her written consent. While some hospitals make reasonable judgments about giving information to parents, others have refused to reveal anything, least of all over the phone.  Some may not even acknowledge to frantic parents whether their adult child has been admitted to a hospital.

 What can a parent do? It’s simple. Have your adult child execute advance directives , which include the following:

  • HIPPA Authorization for Release of Protected Health Information.  Grants health care providers permission to disclose medical information to designated individuals, which is essential to informed and timely decision-making.
  • Health Care Power of Attorney.  A document that authorizes another person to make medical decisions for your adult child, if they cannot.

  • Living Will. A declaration stating whether or not life-sustaining procedures should be used to prolong life when a terminal condition is irreversible or death is imminent. 

  • Emergency Information and Contact List.  An organized, updated and concise presentation of prior medical history, allergies, and emergency contact information.

Advance directives and emergency contact information should be immediately available when urgently needed, or the information is useless.  We strongly recommend that every adult carry in their wallet an emergency medical information card that makes health/contact information and advance directives instantly accessible  to medical facilities anywhere in the world.  An estate planning attorney can prepare these advance directives, and arrange for an emergency medical card.

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