The HIPAA Privacy Rule treats an adult or emancipated minor’s personal representative as the individual for purposes of the Rule regarding the health care matters that relate to the representation, including the right of access under 45 CFR 164.524. The scope of access will depend on the authority granted to the personal representative by other law. If the personal representative is authorized to make health care decisions, generally, then the personal representative may have access to the individual’s protected health information regarding health care in general. On the other hand, if the authority is limited, the personal representative may have access only to protected health information that may be relevant to making decisions within the personal representative’s authority. For example, if a personal representative’s authority is limited to authorizing artificial life support, then the personal representative’s access to protected health information is limited to that information which may be relevant to decisions about artificial life support.
There is an exception to the general rule that a covered entity must treat an adult or emancipated minor’s personal representative as the individual. Specifically, the Privacy Rule does not require a covered entity to treat a personal representative as the individual if, in the exercise of professional judgment, it believes doing so would not be in the best interest of the individual because of a reasonable belief that the individual has been or may be subject to domestic violence, abuse or neglect by the personal representative, or that doing so would otherwise endanger the individual. This exception applies to adults and both emancipated and unemancipated minors who may be subject to abuse or neglect by their personal representatives.