Is there any way we can sign a release form for my brother?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 29, 2016
Camalc asked...

My brother is very ill. Upon entering the hospital he was not given the opportunity to sing a hipaa release form. The hospital will not proivde us with any info about him. They say that he cannot sign a form because he will be under constant sedation. He is in long term care. Is there any way around this "catch 22"?

Expert Answers

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

In 1996, a law was passed called the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), requiring the strict confidentiality of a patient's health information. So, when a family member is a patient at a health care facility, there is a balancing act between open communication and protection of a patient's privacy. Since he cannot sign the form to have medical information released to you, then you cannot get this information legally from the hospital.

If your brother is not able to make decisions on his own, and currently there is not a decision maker for him, then you will need to contact a lawyer. You may need to consider adult guardianship proceedings, so that you will be able to be involved in his health care. This is an involved process, meaning that you will have to go to court and having a judge declare him incompetent to make his medical treatment decisions. It is a long, expensive process.