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Can I talk to my grandma's doctors?


Question: My grandmother has been having many health issues. It has become very bad since my grandfather’s passing in 2009. She has recently been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and lupus. Since then, she has been in a lot of pain and tells her friends she cannot cook, clean or drive. She sleeps a lot. She is seeing about seven different medical doctors and they give her medication. My question is whether I have any rights as a granddaughter to contact these doctors. I am concerned with her well being. Can they talk to me? I do not know if these doctors know all the medications she is taking or what each doctor has diagnosed. What rights do I have?

Dr. Amy: It’s important that our doctors know about every drug we are taking, including over-the-counter drugs we get without a prescription. That’s because one drug may interact with another, in some cases creating serious medical problems. I encourage you to have your grandmother write to her doctors with a list re-capping the doctors she is seeing and the medications she is taking. If this is difficult for her to do, you could help her.

To answer your question, the doctors will need your grandmother’s permission to discuss her health with you. That’s because health information is protected under privacy laws. If your grandmother is willing to grant permission, she can write a letter to the doctors stating this— or she can give her consent when she visits with them. You can call each doctor’s office to ask whether you can fax a letter signed by her, or what they prefer. Assuming your grandmother is open to this, it’s a good idea for you to be listed in her medical file as someone the doctors are allowed to share information with. In fact, it’s a good idea for all of us to think about who we want our doctors to be free to consult, should something happen. 

Your grandmother is lucky to have such a caring and concerned granddaughter!


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