Power of Attorney and Deceased Individuals
There have been numerous questions regarding a deceased individual and the rights to their protected health information. The following will answer those questions.
Q. Is a power of attorney still effective after a patientâ€™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 physicianâ€™s office 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 individualâ€™s estate, if one was named in the individualâ€™s will. If there is no executor, state law generally establishes a priority order for next of kin who may manage the patientâ€™s estate. Usually, this includes the decedentâ€™s spouse (if married at the time of death), adult children, parents, the decedentâ€™s adult brothers or sisters, and nieces or nephews, if there are no closer relatives.
A person who has been legally designated to represent a patient is also referred to as a â€śpersonal representativeâ€ť of the patient. This means that such a personal representative would be treated as if they were the individual having all rights of access to the deceased personâ€™s protected health information. The key word is â€ślegallyâ€ť designated. Even if the person requesting the information is the â€śnext of kinâ€ť, it still must be legally documented and in accordance with your state law.