Turning 18– Who Makes Decisions In Medical Emergencies?

A Bitter-Sweet Season
August 15, 2017
August 15, 2017
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Young girl with a camera outdoors

When a person turns 18, he or she is an adult and gets to make his or her own decisions about  medical and mental health care.  That means that parents do not automatically get to know what is going on with their children’s health in emergency situation.  This happened to a colleague of mine.  He daughter went to college.  When she got a call from her daughter’s friend that her daughter was sick and in the infirmary on campus,  she immediately called the school.  Shock of all shocks–she was not allowed to learn what was going on with her daughter!  She did not have a HIPAA release on file.

Having executed Healthcare Powers of Attorney with HIPAA authorizations,  in which your child has selected you to make such decisions for your child when he or she cannot make them, is a great idea for many families.  That gives both you and your child peace of mind.  The built-in HIPAA authorization allows you to have access to your child’s private health information in order to help make the decision.

What happens if you don’t have this?  When Arizona law determines who may make those decisions for you.   A.R.S. Section 36-3231 sets the order from whom the healthcare provider will seek a decision as:

1. the patient’s spouse, unless  they are legally separated

2.an adult child of the patient, or if there are more than one child, the health care provided shall seek the consent of the majority of those adult  children who are reasonably available for consultation.

3. a parent of the patient

4. if the patient is unmarried, the patient’s domestic partner

5. A brother or sister of the patient

6. A close friend of the patient who is familiar with the wishes and is willing and able to get involved.

7. At the attending physician with consultation from the institutional ethics committee

8. The attending physician with consultation and concurrence with a second physician

Family dynamics can be tricky.  Leaving the determination of who makes your child’s health decision to the State of Arizona is a significant loss of control.  It may be that the assumptions of the state about who is the most likely to care about your child’s health may be wrong.  If you have turned 18 yourself, you may prefer your fiancé or significant other to make those decisions for you rather than your parent.   You may be closest to a sibling and want them to make decisions for you.  Siblings are pretty low on the list,  so they would not be the likely get asked.

The best solution is to have Healthcare Powers of Attorney , a HIPAA authorization, and a Living Will in place.  Take the time now to help your  18 year old feel protected and respected for their views, or, if you are now 18, take ownership for your healthcare rights.  In addition to that,  18 year old college students should  sign up for an “In Case of Emergency (ICE)”  Card through Docubank.  This is something that I recommend.  That gives the  medical provider access to HIPAA authorizations, Healthcare Powers of Attorney and your Living Will.  It also provided the hospital or provided with the information to notify your emergency contact. Finally,  it provides key information about allergies or medical conditions about which any emergency provide should be aware.

I encourage.   It designates an emergency contact and also provides 24/7 access to your key healthcare related, legal documents.   Send your kids off to college with these important documents and services in place.  “Stay Ahead of The Curve” and call Lisa Keylon, Esq. at Lisa Kurtz Keylon, PLC to schedule a time to assist you at 480-922-5552 or Lisa@AheadOfTheCurveLaw.com.