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Where the HIPAA Privacy Rule applies, does it allow a health care provider to disclose protected health information (PHI) about a troubled teen to the parents of the teen?

In most cases, yes.  If the teen is a minor, the HIPAA Privacy Rule generally allows a covered entity to disclose PHI about the child to the child’s parent, as the minor child’s personal representative, when the disclosure is not inconsistent with state or other law. For more detailed information, see 45 CFR § 164.502(g) and the personal representatives fact sheet.  In some cases, such as when a minor may receive treatment without a parent’s consent under applicable law, the parents are not treated as the minor’s personal representative.  See 45 CFR § 164.502(g)(3).  In such cases where the parent is not the personal representative of the teen, other HIPAA Privacy Rule provisions may allow the disclosure of PHI about the teen to the parent.  For example, if a provider believes the teen presents a serious danger to self or others, the HIPAA Privacy Rule permits a covered entity to disclose PHI to a parent or other person(s) if the covered entity has a good faith belief that:  (1) the disclosure is necessary to prevent or lessen the threat and (2) the parent or other person(s) is reasonably able to prevent or lessen the threat.  The disclosure also must be consistent with applicable law and standards of ethical conduct.  See 45 CFR § 164.512(j)(1)(i).

In addition, the Privacy Rule permits covered entities to share information that is directly relevant to the involvement of a family member in the patient’s health care or payment for care if, when given the opportunity, the patient does not object to the disclosure.  Even when the patient is not present or it is impracticable, because of emergency circumstances or the patient’s incapacity, for the covered entity to ask the patient about discussing his or her care or payment with a family member, a covered entity may share this information with the family member when, in exercising professional judgment, it determines that doing so would be in the best interest of the patient.  See 45 CFR § 164.510(b).


Created 11/25/08

Content created by Office for Civil Rights (OCR)
Content last reviewed on July 26, 2013