Two years ago my daughter called from college to say that just been diagnosed with a swine flu and was very ill, with a high fever. She wanted to come home; could she travel? Did she need medication? I called the college heath center where she had been diagnosed but because of federal law they were not allowed to give me any specifics on my daughter’s condition without her written approval.
Eventually that situation was easily resolved. But suppose one of my adult children was suddenly incapacitated and need to have critical decisions made about their medical care? As of age 18, our children are responsible for making their own medical and mental health care decisions. Without written permission, parents have no say in the treatment. In fact, because of privacy rules, you could not even get information about their medical condition.
In an excellent article, “Making Critical Care Decisions for Your Young Adult Child,” Michigan attorney Matthew Wallace writes, “The only way that the health care information can be released to you, the parent, is if you have been appointed as a patient advocate by your child or as a guardian by the probate court.”
In case of an accident or sudden illness who will make those critical decisions? To plan for the unexpected, Mr. Wallace suggests getting a “properly drafted durable power of attorney for health care” designating you (or someone else) as a patient advocate who would have access to all medical and mental health care information and make medical and mental health care treatment decisions when your child is unable.
This also brings up the question of other documents like a living will and a financial power of attorney for your child. But, at the very least, the health care power of attorney is a starting point, and your family lawyer can help with that.