Are you sure you can make medical decisions for your child? Recently, a friend asked a small group of us that question. We all had unmarried adult children. She explained to us that if our any of our children were incapacitated and needed someone to make healthcare decisions on their behalf, and see their personal health information, a Designation of Health Care Surrogate was necessary. A surrogate is simply a person who can make decisions on behalf of another. In our state, each of our adult children needed to sign the document in the presence of two witnesses and a notary public. Without such a document, we did not have legal permission to make decisions or receive information regarding our grown children’s medical lives. This legal requirement still applies even though we might be supporting them, if they live with us, and even if they’re on our health insurance policy.
So, in the event your adult child is incapacitated, if you want to be able to:
- Make decisions on your child’s behalf relating to medical treatment and surgical and diagnostic procedures, and
- Receive from any health care provider or other covered entity all protected health information relating to your child,
you’ll need a document that names you as your adult child’s designated healthcare surrogate. Designation of Health Care Surrogate is sometimes also referred to as Advanced Healthcare Directive, Medical Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, or Health Care Agent. Each state can differ on the language required to be in the document and signature requirements, so you’ll want to consult an attorney to ensure you comply with the law, even though these form documents for each state are readily available online.
By the way, these same requirements hold true for your aging parents. So if you believe you might need to get their health information or to make medical decisions on their behalf, a Designation of Health Care Surrogate from them may be advisable.
Have you experienced a situation where you could not get health information or make medical decisions for your unmarried adult children? What did you do? Please share your comments.