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- Alcohol Poisoning: This one is common, happens every weekend on almost every college campus. A student drinks too much, or maybe even mixes alcohol with medications or illegal drugs. The student ends up carted away to the local hospital by ambulance. You get a call from the roommate or a friend, but the hospital will not tell you your child’s status, because the hospital considers your son or daughter an adult, so disclosing his or her medical condition violates HIPAA.
- Depression: Again, not an uncommon issue. A student can get overwhelmed when he is away from home for the first time, dealing with the stress of maintaining academics, the pitfalls of dating, and maybe just feeling isolated without his usual buddies around on whom he is used to leaning. You want him to go to the counseling center, but you can not find out if he has gone there, they will not talk to you.
- Injury: Your son is an experienced wrestler. He was the captain of his high school team. He has had his share of bumps and bruises, but in a match in another state he is seriously injured and is rushed to the hospital. The coach did not stay with him because he had to stay with the team. A teammate is with your son, and thank goodness he called you, but the doctor will not give you, or the teammate, information about your son’s condition, as it violates HIPAA.
- Medical Issue: Your daughter is having severe abdominal pain. She calls you and says she is doubled over in agony and does not know what to do because the health center is closed. You cannot imagine what it could be, since your daughter had her appendix removed when she was ten years old. You tell her to go to the emergency room thinking it must be food poisoning, and her friends take her there. Once there, doctors discover that she somehow received an infection related to her IUD, and may have Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. It threatens your daughter’s future fertility, but you do not know that, because the doctor considers this confidential information and your daughter does not have her phone with her.
There is a relatively easy way to avoid the problems associated with your son or daughter’s legal adult status, whether at home or away. He or she can sign a HIPAA waiver and a Health Care Power of Attorney. But your son may be a Connecticut resident, at school in Massachusetts, and at a wrestling match in New York. So you need to be sure it is drafted appropriately to be recognized by the other states.
We have drafted special HIPAA waivers and Health Care Powers of Attorney for college students, for use in other states. For clients whose sons or daughters were hard to pin down, and many were, with multiple activities and obligations, our attorneys have traveled to our client's homes in Greenwich or Stamford, to ensure the proper execution of these documents.
All three of my children have a Health Care Power of Attorney and a HIPAA release. I want to stress, that this isn't about being a "helicopter parent," rather, this is about providing college-bound students with peace of mind that, in the event of an emergency, their parents are able to help them.