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What Parents Need To Know About Medical Privacy When Their Child Turns 18

January 13, 2023

In most circumstances, you become an adult when you turn 18, an age established by the Michigan Age of Majority Act.

When your child turns 18 and is recognized as a legal adult, Michigan parents lose the rights to be involved in their child’s affairs. An adult child has his or her own legal rights to live independently without parental approval or involvement. These rights include getting medical treatment without parental consent.

And because an 18-year-old is now an adult and able to get medical treatment on their own, they’re also protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This law protects personal medical information from being shared without patient authorization.

Signing a HIPAA Release and Appointing a Medical Power of Attorney Gives Parents Access

A newly minted 18-year-old or any adult child can sign the proper authorization forms to permit their parents to have access and some direction in the event of an emergency. When both the parent and adult child sign the authorization forms, it provides parents with the right to intervene and have a voice in what happens in the case of a medical emergency.

These are the two important documents parents and young adults should consider having in place:

HIPAA Release

A HIPAA release permits healthcare providers to release and share medical information about an adult child with the parents. A signed HIPAA authorization need not be notarized, and adult children can prevent some information from being disclosed, such as information about sex, drugs, or mental health.

Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare (DPOA-HC)

A DPOA-HC will allow a young adult to appoint an agent to make decisions concerning decisions regarding care, custody, or medical treatment on his or her behalf. This is also known as a “patient advocate designation.” A DPOA-HC gives the young adult control over his or her future health care decisions.

This is the only way you can decide who will make your health care decisions for you if you can’t make them for yourself. Plus, it’s a way to make certain that the agent making decisions for you knows what you would want.

When Can Healthcare Providers Release Information Despite HIPAA?

In some circumstances, a healthcare provider can elect to disclose health information to a family member even if a HIPAA release form hasn’t been signed. This happens when, in the provider’s professional judgment, releasing the information is in the patient’s best interest. However, typically healthcare providers err on the side of patient privacy, especially if they don’t know the parents.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says there are some situations when a health provider can share information with a family member:

  • The parent is involved in the adult child’s healthcare or payment of their healthcare;
  • The adult child patient tells the healthcare provider he or she can disclose information; and
  • The adult child patient has no objection to sharing the information, or, if using his or her professional judgment, a healthcare provider believes that the patient doesn’t object.

There are some other exceptions that permit a patient’s records to be released without their consent. If a provider sees that there are signs of abuse or negligence, or if the patient has a communicable disease, the healthcare provider must inform the proper authorities. Also, if the healthcare provider believes a patient is in danger or may cause themselves or others harm, they can contact parents or authorities.


Without these forms in place, parents are left in the stressful situation of being unable to easily or readily find out the status of an adult child in a medical emergency. Further, parents would have mostly no authorization to make treatment decisions when an adult child is unable to consent the release of information to the child’s parents.