I have a 33-year-old brother who was diagnosed with schizophrenia about a decade ago. He hasn’t responded to any antipsychotic medication and has delusional thoughts a few times a year. He doesn’t work. He’s on disability. He gets quite a lot of money on a monthly basis because he worked for many years before and after his diagnosis. Our father has control over his finances and he lives rent-free in a home our dad owns. Because of this, he gives my brother an allowance from his disability payments, instead of the whole thing. Anyway…
Five years ago when my brother was in a depressive state my dad got him to sign a power of attorney form. Ever since then dad has micromanaged my brother’s treatment. He only sees one psychiatrist every few months. That doctor will not consider any changes in medication if it’s not authorized by dad (as if he’s a doctor!). The psychiatrist tells him anything my brother says in their appointments. Is this how power of attorney works? I didn’t think a therapist would just throw out patient confidentiality and let a unlicensed lay person decide which medications to use and when, especially when there’s been no major improvement on the long-term injection medication that my brother’s been using for 3 years now.
This is really a legal question and depends on location of residence but in general, power of attorney should not supersede patient confidentiality. However, your brother may have authorized his psychiatrist to disclose mental health care and treatment information to your father. That might be why your father seemingly has so much control over your brother’s care. Beyond these generalities, you’ll have to consult a lawyer.
It’s advisable to contact an attorney who specializes in mental health law. He or she would be in the best position to answer your questions.
Each state has their own laws regarding psychiatric powers. A good place to start would be contacting your state’s National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). They might have information on their website that would prove useful or they might refer you to a good lawyer.
Another good resource is the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN). According to their website, they are a nonprofit organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and Client Assistance Programs (CAP). There is a P&A/CAP agency in every state. You can learn more information about their services on their website. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle