Health Information Management

Q&A: Power of attorney and deceased individuals

HIM-HIPAA Insider, October 26, 2010

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Q. Is a power of attorney still effective after a patient’s death? I was told that a woman whose husband died was not allowed to get a copy of his medical record. She had his power of attorney, but the hospital told her that the power of attorney died with him. Is that true?

A. A power of attorney is only effective while the individual is living. When an individual dies, his or her legal representative is the executor of the individual’s estate, if one was named in the individual’s will. If there is no executor, state law generally establishes a priority order for next of kin who may manage the patient’s estate. Usually, this includes the decedent’s spouse (if married at the time of death), adult children, parents, the decedent’s adult brothers or sisters, and nieces or nephews, if there are no closer relatives.
 
Editor’s note: Mary D. Brandt, MBA, RHIA, CHE, CHPS, vice president of health information management at Scott & White Healthcare in Temple, TX, answered this question, which originally appeared in the October issue of Briefings on HIPAA.

 



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