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When a person is hospitalized, family members are legally allowed certain rights, especially if the hospitalized individual is unable to make his or her own medical decisions. But how does the hospital know who is family, and who is not?

For example, if Billy Jones were to be hospitalized and unconscious, and I were to want access to his medical records and control over his treatment, I could arrive at the hospital, provide state-issued ID identifying myself as Steve Jones, claim to be his parent, sibling or child, and have almost-legal access to his medical care. How does the hospital confirm that I am (not) indeed related to Billy Jones, and therefore (not) entitled to his medical information?

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    So you mean some gangster could kill another gangster in the hospital by faking ID? It all depends how serious the hospital is when checking ID. – Bradman175 Jun 6 '16 at 23:36
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    @Bradman175 Not at all. If I happen to share Billy Jones' last name, my legitimate ID will match me to my identity. That's not the problem. How does the hospital know whether we are related, or simply share a last name? – TheEnvironmentalist Jun 8 '16 at 5:32
  • Are you asking only about decision-making? I have visited out-of-hours by claiming to be a sister of the patient, and nobody asked me to prove it. I've spent a lot of time in hospitals, as patient and as visitor, and nobody has ever asked anyone for ID. But the patient has always been conscious, so I can't speak to your specific situation. – Kate Gregory Feb 11 '17 at 18:11
  • Also, closely related people often do not share the same name. Of the nearby family members that I would trust to make medical decisions for me in an emergency, there are five different last names and none of those names are the same as mine. If a doctor were to go looking for someone with the same last name as me, they would likely find someone that I do not know well enough to trust. – Robert Columbia Mar 6 '17 at 16:34

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