By Beth Whitehouse
Q: Is it necessary for parents to have a health care proxy for college students, or for any child when he or she turns 18?
A: It’s a good idea, says Melissa Negrin-Wiener, a law partner at the Melville firm of Cona Elder Law. A health care proxy signed by the child — who at 18 is considered an adult — gives parents the legal rights to medical information and to make medical decisions on a child’s behalf.
Of course if the child can communicate when ill, he or she can grant verbal consent — or not. But if there’s an accident, sudden illness, or drug or alcohol overdose that makes it impossible for the child to communicate his wishes, the proxy proves the child wants the parents to be in charge under those circumstances, Negrin-Wiener says.
“The health care proxy is the safest way to know you’ll be able to get information and make decisions,” Negrin-Wiener says. “Most people don’t think about it at that age; they think the health care proxy is only for old people. Most college students are 18 and older. Sending your child off to college is a good trigger to say, ‘We should get this done.’ ”
She also suggests that the child carry a card in their wallet with parents’ contact information to make it easier for emergency personnel to contact them.
Proxy templates can be downloaded online; Negrin-Wiener, however, recommends the proxy be done by a lawyer to make sure the language is customized to New York State. Having one done professionally typically costs a few hundred dollars, she says.
Without a health care proxy, parents may have to petition the court for the right to make medical decisions for the child, Negrin-Wiener says.