Mother fights for access to daughter's medical details

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Your medical records, billing information and health insurance details are all protected by "HIPAA."

It's a federal law designed to ensure your privacy. But, can the rule go too far?

A Powhatan mother of two spent the better part of a year trying the help her oldest daughter through a deep depression.  But she says medical doors constantly closed in her face because her little girl is an adult.

"She felt like she was burden on everybody, so she thought the best thing for her to do was, we can get over the death in time.  So why not just end it," Barbara said.

Last year, Barbara's 25-year-old daughter fell on some tough times,  and when things got harder, she overdosed on her prescription drugs.

Since then, Barbara has been learning all she can about suicide and thinking through her daughter's life and experiences. But when she reached out to her daughter's doctors...

"She said HIPAA law does not allow them to listen to my concerns.  And that's all I was trying to do was get them to listen to what we were seeing in order to better help her," Barbara said.

HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability act.  Its privacy rule is what most people refer to when they say HIPAA.  It's a rule Barbara says put her daughter's life at risk.  In her second suicide attempt, she tried to hang herself.

"I think if they work with the families, a lot of this stuff could be prevented.  And they don't want to work with the family unless the patient, because they're an adult, signs a HIPAA form," Barbara said.

"There's a whole, entire rule that's structured just so that patient's privacy with their medical information is protected," Barnes said

Barnes says unless they designate a personal representative, an adult's medical information is 100 percent confidential.  Hospitals, billing agencies and insurance companies, and all the people who work for them, adhere to that rule.

Even in the case of a mother, the law is air-tight.

"It's really up to the individual when they are adult to say how they want their information shared," Barnes said.

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