For those of you with children that have attained their 18th birthday and, especially, for those with children that may be heading off to college in the fall, it is important that they have a health care power of attorney (HCPOA) in place. Young adults are highly susceptible to injuries, illnesses and accidents for which important medical decisions need to be made. This can be even more challenging when those children are residing far away.
Health care powers of attorney are used to appoint someone to serve as your designated representative, or agent, to make medical decisions for you in the event you are unable to make them yourself. We typically think of HCPOA’s for adults and, most often, for senior citizens who are prone to accidents, serious illnesses and dementia. A typical scenario is when the person requiring medical attention is unconscious or dealing with impaired cognition due to medications in their system.
Upon attaining their 18th birthday, your children are deemed to be adults in the eyes of the law. At that point, parents do not have an automatic right to step in and make medical decisions for their children if they become incapacitated. Moreover, in accordance with HIPAA, parents do not necessarily have rights to even access their children’s medical records or receive information from the treating physicians about the child’s medical condition.
Please note that many colleges also have their own forms that students should fill out to authorize the school to talk to you, the parents.
We encourage you to discuss these important documents with your children and other family members. Use the free Health Care Power of Attorney form available on the Maryland State Attorney General's website using the link above. And while you are at it, if you don't have this important document for yourself, consider printing extra copies and fill one out for you.