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Medical privacy begins at 18

Posted by Jill Boynton  July 20, 2009 12:45 PM

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In Massachusetts the age of majority is 18. That means a young adult is responsible for making his or her own medical decisions, and a parent no longer has that legal right without the child's consent. This extends to access to medical records- parents have no legal rights, without consent, to the medical information for their child who is no longer a minor.

A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (Health Care Proxy) is therefore an important document to have as early as age 18. This is a legal document naming someone to act as your agent if you are unable to make medical decisions for yourself and also gives the agent access to your medical records. It is drawn up by an attorney and needs to be notarized. Once completed it should be given to your doctor and the agent you've named. It's a good idea also to keep a copy in an easily accessible place that your family and friends are aware of. (In the case of a college student, give a copy to the school's Student Health Services Dept.)

If this document is used to name one or both parents as agents for the young adult, it would enable the parent, for instance, to get information from a doctor or surgeon in the case of an emergency. Note that, as stated above, the document kicks in if the child is incapacitated. If he or she is able to make medical decisions then a HIPAA release form is required to grant a parent ability to get medical information and records.

These forms help parents to be informed and included in their child's health care when the child is living a distance away, as is the case with many college students. So as you get your college student ready to go off this fall, don't forget the Health Care Proxy and HIPAA authorization.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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D. Abraham Ringer is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER practitioner and a Financial Adviser with Morgan Stanley Global Wealth Management in Boston. He is registered in MA, NH, NY and several other states to which his articles are directed. For more information please visit www.morganstanleyfa.com/ringer
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