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College-Age Children And Medical Emergencies

It is back-to-school season and soon young adults from across the county will be starting college.

Imagine a young girl starting her freshman year of college. Just after Thanksgiving she is rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery on a broken leg from playing intramural sports.

Her mom frantically calls the hospital seeking to find out the condition of her 18-year-old daughter. The nurse on the other end of the phone says, “I’m sorry. I am not allowed to give you that information.” The mother emotionally responds saying, “I’m her mother, please let me know how she is doing. I have the right to know.” The nurse replies in a matter-of-fact tone, “It does not matter. We are not able to provide the status of our adult patients without their authorization and we do not have your authorization on file. Have a nice day.”

When children turn 18 they become legal adults and nobody is able to make medical decisions for them while unconscious or get access to their medical records without their expressed consent.

We believe it is critically important that clients have a power of attorney for health care for all of their adult children in college or living away from home. The most recent HIPAA form should also be filed with the primary physician and student health services at the university. These two forms will allow you to make medical decisions on behalf of your kids and have access to their medical records.

If the girl mentioned above had these forms on file then her mom and dad could call and get the reassurance needed that their daughter would be okay. This could be even more important if a major medical decision needed to be made and the child was incapacitated.

 Please reach out to us if you would like assistance in completing a power of attorney for health care. It can be done very quickly. We work with a number of attorneys who can efficiently and cost-effectively complete this document. The best time is now before your kids leave for school. 

This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized legal advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific situation with a qualified legal advisor.