Power of Attorney?
The Unexpected Is Always One Record Request Away
Read more about advance
directives such as the
power of attorney
in the story “Sorting out
Advance Directives” on
A 45-YEAR-OLD MAN rushes into a Maryland hospital’s HIM department
requesting the full medical records of both his 70-year-old mother and
father. Both had been previously treated by the hospital for complications
from Alzheimer’s disease.
Some years previously the mother and father each had created durable
powers of attorney for healthcare documents that named the agent who
could handle their medical affairs. This included access to their medical
The mother named her husband, the son’s father, as her sole healthcare
agent. The father named the son, their only child, as his sole healthcare
Now suffering from late-stage Alzheimer’s disease and living in a hos-pice, the mother and father are unable to manage their own medical care.
The son requests access to his father’s medical records as his father’s
named healthcare agent.
Because his father is unable to serve as his mother’s agent, the son—
act-ing in the role of his father’s agent—says he is now his mother’s agent by
default. He presents the father’s and mother’s durable healthcare powers
of attorney documents as proof of his legal rights.
Yes, he should, but not for the reason he states. A durable power of at-torney for healthcare cannot be transferred, nor does it reach beyond the
agent named in the document. Being the father’s agent does not grant the
son rights to his mother’s records.
However, this situation takes place in Maryland, one of several states
with surrogate decision-making statutes. The Maryland statute provides
for a hierarchy of substitute healthcare decision makers in instances
where a patient has not named a healthcare power of attorney agent or
the named agent is unable to serve.
With the father incapacitated and the couple having only one child, the
son is the first in line to serve as his mother’s healthcare decision maker.
This status would grant him legal access to her medical records. If the son
was not next in line under the Maryland statute, or this scenario occurred
in a state without substitute healthcare decision maker laws, the son’s
request for the mother’s records should be denied. ¢