If you have children who are over the age of 18, you should know that they need to have documents that are similar to your own. If your child gets ill while at school, without the proper documentation, you may not have access to talk to medical personnel.
When your child turns 18, they are no longer considered a minor, and you, (formerly their natural guardian,) no longer have the authority to make decisions for them. As a result, if you have to contact medical personnel at their college, it is likely that you will be told “We’re very sorry, but we cannot discuss any issues relative to your child, as we do not have authorization to do so.”
A child who is 18+ has the same rights as any other person, and privacy protection by the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) prevents medical personnel from discussing medical decisions with anyone, including a parent, except in potentially dire need situations.
To prevent this potential problem, it is easy for your child to sign a health proxy, which allows someone, presumably you, to have access to your child’s medical records. This document should be given to the clinic or similar facility at their college when they arrive.
To bring home this point, there have been plenty of examples in recent years of situations at colleges involving violence. Again, your child’s college may not be able to share information without a health proxy, so you should keep a copy at home that could be faxed or email to the school if necessary and in the event that the school misplaces their original.
In addition, it may be beneficial to have a power of attorney in place so you have the authority to make financial decisions on behalf of your child if necessary.
Although this may be a difficult discussion, it could prevent a lot of emotional distress and anguish and is a relatively straight forward and easy document for your child to have. They may also even wish to include language within the document that allows organ donations if desired. Your child may also want to provide advice for end of life decisions, which would prevent protracted litigation over who will make these difficult decisions if and when your child is in a situation that requires them.
Hyman G. Darling, Esq.
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