Sharing Medical Data

Sharing Medical Data
Gray Easterling

If you are a parent on the wrong side of 50, like me, or have aging parents, some of the information in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to you. It raised the parameters of personal boundaries, such as whether or not a son or daughter should tag along with a parent to their doctor’s appointment. If the child is aware that a parent is struggling with depression, for example, should they disclose that to the primary care physician? Family members’ involvement may help a parent receive better care, since they can act as a sounding board, keep track of important details and help with logistics of keeping appointments, picking up prescriptions, etc. However, by including an adult child or advocate, the parents lose the exclusive right to decide who has access to their medical records. Also, bringing a family member into an exam room gives the physician de facto consent to share medical information with that person. Another consideration is that the patient may feel left out when not included in conversations and frustrated or angry when a family member reveals sensitive information about them. This is a difficult transition for a parent, and family members should offer encouragement and reassurance that the parent is doing the right thing. Adult children should also try to take a supportive role and let the parent/patient make as many decisions as possible.


The article included a “guide for those helping” that gave some good advice: Ask whether your parent wants you to request clarification on what the doctor says. Help your parent think ahead of time about anything that they would be uncomfortable discussing with the doctor in your presence. On the other side, consider how you feel being privy to your parent’s intimate health information. Recognize that it may be best to discuss a “misrepresentation” made by your parent to the doctor after the visit. If the information is important or crucial to a diagnosis, try to persuade your parent to call and correct the record. While the decision belongs to the patient, you can help them understand the importance of providing complete and accurate health histories. This is not going to be easy. Child, be a good listener; parent, be open and honest about your concerns and your fears. Both of you hug and pray together.


Since I have been writing about talking, sharing and praying, I think it is appropriate to end with some of the lyrics from a new Tyler Farr song, titled “I Should Go To Church Sometime”. “I should go to church sometime, maybe walk a straighter line. Lord knows I could use the light to get where I’m going. I shouldn’t say next Sunday, I shouldn’t let my pride get in the way. I know I shouldn’t be afraid of what I know I’ll find…Nah, it ain’t until you’re sinking til you really start listening. You get down on your knees; you swear it’s the last time you’ll say, I should go to church sometime”. From Malachi 3:7: “Ever since the time of your ancestors, you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me and I will return to you, says the Lord.”


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