Today’s families are busier than ever. Between sports, school events and other extracurricular activities, parents and their kids often find themselves in multiple different locations at the same time. Today’s mobile phone technology means that parents are seldom unable to be reached. However, if there is an emergency involving a child while the child’s parents are on an airplane or in church, having a parent’s phone number may not mean immediate contact.
Parents often ask me what they can do to ensure that their kids will be properly treated by doctors or medical technicians in an emergency involving their children.
The law has no specific form that instructs non-parents as to how the minors should be treated if a medical emergency arises. Nonetheless, many of us attorneys prepare a basic information form (sometimes including power of attorney) that parents can use to inform medical professionals in emergency situations about a child’s unique medical conditions.
Because the form is not legally necessary or mandated, parents can prepare such a document on their own. I recommend that parents either hire a lawyer to prepare for them or prepare for themselves a document that includes the following information:
• Each child’s full name and date of birth.
• All parents’ and guardians’ names and phone numbers.
• A non-parent identity and phone number (such as a grandparent, uncle or aunt) for emergencies when parents cannot be reached.
• Each child’s unique medical conditions (such as asthma or frequent ear infections) as of the date the document is prepared.
• Each child’s medications as of the date that the document is prepared.
• Each child’s allergies as of the date the document is prepared.
• Each child’s primary/family doctor along with that professional’s phone number.
• Identify the exact date that the document was prepared.
I do not recommend including Social Security numbers in such a document because they add no real value to the document and only increase the risk of identity theft.
Such a document can be provided to extended family members or babysitters. If parents are traveling or may be out-of-town for any extended period of time, providing the caregiver with a copy of the document is advisable. In fact, I laminate the completed documents for my clients to hang on their refrigerators.
Some attorneys will include their contact information on that document, so that any resources the attorney might have (such as the identities of additional, extended family members) can be made available in the most urgent situations. Some of us also include a mobile phone number on documents like this so that communication can be coordinated outside of regular business hours if necessary.
Parents who may have jobs or other requirements that preclude them from being available at all times will sometimes include within the document a power of attorney prepared by a lawyer. That power of attorney can make it clear to medical professionals that certain people (a grandparent or neighbor, for instance) is empowered to make time-sensitive, major medical decisions for a child if a parent cannot be immediately reached.
Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at Lee@LeeSchroeder.com or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.