Important Legal Issues About Health Care When Turning 18

When a child turns 18, only they can authorize the release of their health information and medical records. UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh cannot share with caregivers unless the young adult provides consent (PDF).

Consider supported decision making if a young adult does not have the capacity to make all decisions about their health care.

In Pennsylvania, there are three options available to support young adults and families in these situations:

  1. Power of Attorney – authority granted by the young adult to another adult to help make decisions. This may be an option for young adults who have capacity to care for themselves and make their own medical decisions.
  2. Guardianship – a court proceeding to appoint an individual to make decisions about the young adult’s health, as well as:
    • Safety
    • Support
    • Care
    • Housing

    Guardianship limits the young adult’s right to consent to medical treatment. The guardian must make decisions that are always in the young adult’s best interests. In this case, the court must declare someone legally incompetent.

  3. Health Care Representative – the next of kin of an incapacitated person may make certain medical decisions on behalf of their relatives in limited situations. Typically, there is no power of attorney and no guardian appointed to the patient. 

Talk to an advisor or attorney about these issues to arrive at the best option for your young adult and family. Families of patients at UPMC Children’s Hospital can ask their doctor for a referral to the Health Law Clinic for a free legal consult.

Health Care Transition Legal Resources

Contact the Adolescent to Adulthood Transition Care Program

To schedule an appointment to discuss transition to adult care or if you have general questions, please call 412-692-6677 and leave a message on the nurse option. Someone from our team will call you back.