There Is A Time And A Place For Everything, And It’s Called College.  Prepare Accordingly.

There Is A Time And A Place For Everything, And It’s Called College.  Prepare Accordingly.

Ben Kinney,  JD

In Chicago, August means many things. Unbeatable weather, endless street festivals, and the air and water show. For many families it also means the departure of young adults who leave the home to embark on their next chapter – college.

But while parents are helping their children moving into dormitories and writing checks for meal plans, it is frequently overlooked that parents are no longer the legal guardian of their now emancipated 18 year olds. Children generally love the new freedom. That is, until they need help.

Nowhere is the assistance parents can provide more urgent and more neglected than with a prospective plan for medical care decision making. Decisional incapacity approaches 40% among adult medical inpatients(1), while completion of advance directives in the general population is around 20% to 29% (2,3). All 50 States and Washington DC have varying laws on the default appointment of alternative medical decision makers but there is a lack of consistency, especially when patients are treated outside of their state of permanent residence. Uncertainty about who will fill the alternate decision maker role is never more frustrating than for a parent with a sick child, but it is also one of the easiest issues to plan for.

A medical power of attorney is a simple legal directive that authorizes a specific person to make medical decisions on behalf of an incapacitated patient. It can grant broad powers, like access to HIPAA protected patient history or it can narrowly define the scope of the agent’s authority. Either way, it provides certainty that is legally recognized as to who the medical decision maker is.

As attorneys we hear our clients say over and over “we always talked about doing that, but never got around to it.” It will never be easier to do than right now. We at Stilp Business Law, as experienced counsel, can help.

(1)       Raymont V, Bingley W, Buchanan A, et al. Prevalence of mental incapacity in medical inpatients and associated risk factors: cross-sectional study. Lancet. 2004;364:1421–7.
(2)       Larson EJ, Eaton TA. The limits of advance directives: a history and assessment of the Patient Self-Determination Act. Wake Forest Law Rev. 1997;32:249–93.
(3)       Rao JK, Anderson LA, Lin FC, Laux JP. Completion of advance directives among U.S. consumers. Am J Prev Med. 2014;46:65–70.