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Your Child Turned 18

True Testimonial: My son was a junior at a college 500 miles from home.  At 2:00 a.m. one early morning, he called me, almost incoherent.  However, he was able to tell me that he had been running a 103+ fever for two days.  I told him to get to the emergency room, and I got out of bed, booked my flight and packed my bag. By noon the next day, I arrived to find that my son had been admitted to the hospital. I tried to talk to the nurses, and asked to speak to the doctor. I was told in no uncertain terms that neither the nurses nor the doctors could talk to me because my son was over the age of 18. It made no difference that I was his mom. His medical providers couldn't by law (and wouldn't) discuss his condition with me until my son gave them the authorization. My son lay there unconscious. I spent the rest of that afternoon at his bedside, knowing absolutely nothing. 

If you’re the parent of a teenager, you probably already feel as though you’re losing control of your child’s life.  But do you know that this legally becomes reality once your child turns 18?  Yes, in Florida it is the law that anyone over the age of 18 is an adult, with the legal right to govern their own life.

Before they turn 18, you absolutely are entitled to access your child’s medical records and control the course of their medical treatment.  But all this changes when your child turns 18, because now they are an adult and legally entitled to privacy.  You no longer have access to or authority over their affairs … not medical, not educational, not financial. 

Barring anything other than normal, this would be fine.  But, what about when the unexpected happens, and you are denied information about your child? 

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law protecting the privacy of a patient’s medical information.  Because of the special parent/child relationship, HIPAA waives most of the protections for a minor child, and allows parents access to medical information in most cases.  Most parents don’t realize that the day your child turns 18, this all changes.  You will argue that (1) you’re the parents; (2) that patient is your child; (3) you need the information to help your child; (4) you have a right to the information; and probably (5) you pay for the insurance that will cover the cost of the medical treatment.
RealityNone of this matters.  Once a child reaches the age of 18, the law no longer recognizes a parent’s need for access to the medical records of their child because, by law, the special parent/child relationship has changed.  An adult can make their own medical decisions, and decide who they want to know (or not know) about their medical treatment.  This denies parents the right to be involved in the medical care of their child, who the law has now decided is an adult.

Your child can legally preserve your parent/child relationship by signing a few legal documents that I can prepare.  You owe it to yourself.  Your kids are your life.  This doesn't change just because the law says they’re an ‘adult.’

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