During the year of a child's 18th birthday, many families begin preparing them to start college. While the primary focus is buying school supplies, paying the tuition and double checking that they packed their sweaters for winter, an area often overlooked is making sure that parents still have authority to make health decisions for their children in case of any medical injuries that might arise.
When a child turns 18, they are considered adults and are protected under HIPAA rules pertaining to privacy of information. Should a medical emergency arise, doctors and nurses might not share any information with the parents unless they have authorization. As you can imagine, this could cause delays and stress in trying to obtain information and make decisions when a child isn't able to properly communicate (e.g. unconscious, extended sleep from an injury, cognitive impairment, coma, etc).
A simple way to solve this issue is to have an attorney prepare a Power of Attorney (POA) document authorizing the parents to have rights to obtain information and make the necessary decisions. In addition, having a Health Directive prepared would be wise. Once the documents are prepared, parents need to make sure they have copies to show the doctors and nurses and the children should have a card in their wallet listing their emergency contacts. Often, people don't think of issues like these until they get married and/or have children, but every adult should have a POA and Health Directive once they turn 18 years of age.
Although this isn't a pleasant topic to address, it is important and necessary to ensure proper and timely care. Please call our office if you'd like to discuss this further or would like an introduction to one of the attorneys that we work with to help our clients.