Why Would a College Student Need a Health Care Proxy?

As a parent, it is not unusual to feel you are in the best position to help your child make the best decisions in life, especially with regard to health treatments. However, there are legal barriers you may encounter once your child becomes an adult.
Once your child turns 18, the responsibility of making health care decisions for your child is taken away by the law unless you have been named as an agent by the health care proxy. Particularly, the access to medical information and records of your child becomes restricted by the provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA).

One of the simplest ways to remove legal barriers to acting for your child and helping them at such a critical stage and condition is to have him or her execute a health care proxy before leaving for school.

What is a Health Care Proxy?

A health care proxy is a legal document that designates an adult with legal capacity as the agent with the legal right to make decisions on the medical treatments for a patient in the event that the patient is unable to do so (whether as a result of severe injuries, mental health, or other incapacitation).
A health care proxy guarantees your right as a parent, to legally access the medical information and records of the child and to make a fully informed decision on the treatment to be provided. Such a decision will be based on the patient’s wishes and the facts available from medical records.

What if an Accident or Incapacitation Occurs in College?

As a college student, your child will be away from your immediate supervision. Accidents or incapacitation may occur during this time that may cause your child to be unable to make health care decisions on treatments. This situation may not be a pretty sight. The good news is that it can be prevented. It is for you to decide whether you want to be reactive to such a situation or very proactive by executing a health care proxy.

But to be proactive about the health of your child, it is important you get an experienced health care lawyer to prepare a custom health proxy. The wording of the health care proxy must be tailored to allow you access to the medical records and information of your child.

Summary of Benefits of Having a Health Care Proxy

Here is a list of benefits when you sign a health care proxy:

  • A person of your choosing gets to decide the treatments
  • Your wishes can be carried out the way you want
  • Ability to stop treatments that are not in the patient’s best wishes
  • Avoid confusion and legal hurdles in critical situations

Health Care Proxy vs Power of Attorney vs Living Will

Many parents often ask if a power of attorney is sufficient to grant the authority of a health care proxy to the attorney. The simple answer is No. A power of attorney may not be used for health care decision-making. A Health Care Proxy is only used for health-care related matters. A Living Will is often used to express one’s wishes for end-of-life decision making and is used in conjunction with a Health Care Proxy as an express of the patient’s wishes.

Can a Health Care Proxy Have More Two or More Agents?

Strictly speaking, a health care proxy can only have a single agent or proxy named in the document. However, the document may specify legal backups in the event that such a primary agent or proxy is unable to act. The backups may be one or two agents with their order of priority specified as only one agent can act per time.

Do you have a child in college or loved one freshly resuming college in New York or out of state? Speak to an experienced New York health care attorney at the Law Offices of Elan Wurtzel to discuss your legal options and help you prepare a well-tailored health care proxy for your child. 

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