Your College Student

It’s the time of  year when high school grads are preparing to leave for college.  Whether attending a Florida school, or one in a state far away, it’s an exciting  period for kids but an emotional time for parents.  They’ve lived under your roof for 18 years, and distance won’t keep you from worrying about their well-being.  It’s no surprise you may 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, your18-year old is an adult with rights of privacy.  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 (health) 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.  

Just as important as these documents are, emergency contact and medical history information should also 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 contact information, prior medical history, allergies and advance directives instantly accessible  to medical facilities or emergency personnel  anywhere in the world.  An estate planning attorney can prepare advance directives, and arrange for an emergency medical card.  

While you as the parent can arrange an appointment, preparing these documents does require a meeting or conversation with your child.  

Life can change in an instant.  What are you waiting for?