Ask the Attorney

QUESTION: If I appoint my daughter as my medical power of attorney, will she have access to all my medical information right now? I am having some tests done that I don’t want anyone else to know about. It’s my private business.

ANSWER: No. She would only be able to access your medical information when you are unable to participate in your own medical treatment decisions. Who decides when you are unable to make your own medical treatment decisions? Your doctor and another doctor (or licensed psychologist) must make that determination. They must examine you and state in writing that they believe you are unable to participate in medical treatment decisions. Their determination becomes part of your medical records. Your daughter then would be called your “patient advocate.”

However, what the law says and what people do may not always be the same thing. There may be someone at your doctor’s office who does not understand what the law is concerning patient advocates and they may tell someone information about you. I think your best bet is to talk to your doctor’s office and tell them that you do not want your daughter, a patient advocate, or anyone else to know anything about your medical information unless it has been determined that you are unable to make your own treatment decisions.

That being said, I still highly recommend that you contact an attorney and have a durable power of attorney for health care prepared for you. If you don’t and something were to happen to you wherein you were unable to make your own medical treatment decisions, the probate court would appoint a guardian to make those decisions for you. Even though the court does a great job, they may not appoint the person you would have chosen. It is always better if you choose the person yourself ahead of time.

Michael B. Walling is an Elder Law & Estate Planning attorney with an advanced Master of Laws degree. He manages the Elder Law Center and law firm of Michael B. Walling, PLC. He has offices in Battle Creek and Portage, Michigan. Mr. Walling is also a Part-Time Professor at Western Michigan University.

This column is intended for general information purposes only and should not be considered as legal advice to any particular person.