• Wait a second. The guy was an adult. I will repeat that: the guy was an adult. Sure, his parents had a vested interest in his well-being. But the guy was an adult. If he wanted to keep his activities private, it was his perogative. And keeping one’s actions private should be the default.

    So, I feel for the parents. But the guy was an adult. They have no bone to pick with anyone except their son, who refused to confide in them.

    If I mortgage my life to buy a yacht, should the yacht dealer have an obligation to tell my parents? If I buy cigarettes at the local store, should the storekeeper have an obligation to tell my parents? If I am arrested for seeing a prostitute, should the cops have to tell my parents?

  • The question, of course, is not whether the law should require the doctor or college to share vital health information with the family, but whether it should forbid them to do so. (The same situation applies when HIPAA keeps doctors from telling grown children that their aging parents are getting into medical trouble, which makes it perhaps unnecessary to remind us through repetition that the subject here had reached the age of majority.) Again, we’re not talking about an adult who seeks medical care on the express assurance that it not be revealed to the next of kin, a practice that has probably gone on for as long as there have been doctors, but of wholly new obligations to keep silent with no precedent in medical practice until just quite recently.

    As for the notion that parents can pay for a college education but the law must interpose itself to keep them from finding out whether the student is actually attending classes, I find that just silly.

  • I think you must agree that a line has to be drawn.

    There were apparently many abuses of disclosing personal information that led to the laws. These disclosures hurt individuals.

    Perhaps the line should be drawn at another point. However, there is an easy way to address the college payment problem: have the person who is getting the money sign a release.

  • Allan seems to have one point to make, and thusly hammers it home. If there was anything else in his comment, that information has been lost to the reader.

    The person in question was of the age of majority. I don’t know if ‘adult’ is a legal term in itself, but most of us who have been around both adolescents and those who have reached the legal age of majority will agree that adulthood often does not begin until later.

    In the mean time, get to know your son’s friends and their parents. They are not bound by legalistically silly notions of privacy, and may be able to act as responsible, dare I say it, adult, in seeking help for their friend.

  • I would emphatically agree with Nevin’s last paragraph (not to say I do not agree with his other paragraphs).

    The parents should not blame the law for their lack of information.

  • Mr. Christ could have asked his son to sign a HIPAA waiver, allowing the doctor to share his medical information. In the absence of such a waiver, the physician acted correctly.

  • The parents should not blame the law for their lack of information.

    That would be the information that the law prohibited them from knowing?

    Yeah, the son was an adult in terms of his age, but he wasn’t paying the freight for his college or the doctor visit.

    More than anything, this line from the article should scare people:

    “College records we uncovered years after Brian died documented secretive drug abuse from his freshman year through his senior year, but federal law had kept us from knowing.”

    That reads to me that the college knew of the son’s drug use and abuse and kept it quiet. They were covering up not only to the authorities but to the kid’s parents a crime. There is something wrong when people say “the law demands that can’t tell you of a crime and also that your son’s life is in danger.”

    We can say that everyone acted within the law, but that doesn’t mean the law is right or justifiable.

  • Oh, you fair-weather libertarians.

    This was a public school, UVA. Maybe we can argue the benefits of having government-sponsored schools. But we do.

    So, we have libertarians arguing that a government institution should spy on our children and report their comings and goings to their parents.

    I am not saying it is wrong. I am just saying this is not a black and white issue…

  • Allan,

    If I surreptitiously follow you through the city and report back to someone, that’s spying. Conversely, if I merely happen to mention to your wife that I ran into you yesterday morning and that you were drinking again, that’s not spying. Your wife loves you and just wants to help you get your drinking problem under control.

    So note that a proper libertarian position – not your straw man version, but the real thing – is that the institution will neither spy nor be forbidden from sharing info per its best judgment.

    This is a legal site so formal rules are all the rage; that’s what lawyers do and how they think. But there are also times where judgment is preferred, or should be, because context matters. That’s why we have juries, for example. And the more complex the tradeoffs, the less applicable any set of rules can be.

  • So, we have libertarians arguing that a government institution should spy on our children and report their comings and goings to their parents.

    Funny, I though the argument was that the school turned a blind eye to a crime to protect a kid under the guise of saving the school’s bacon.

    Tell me Allan, if the school had served food that was tainted and did not follow guidelines for food preparation that resulted in the death of the son, would you say the school had no responsibility to tell the parents their son was sick in a hospital?

    If the school had a known OSHA violation in one of the engineering labs which resulted in the death of the son, would you be arguing the school had no duty to follow the law or take steps to insure the safety of the son?

  • Bull…


    “Where a patient is not present or is incapacitated, a health care provider may share the patient’s information with family, friends, or others involved in the patient’s care or payment for care, as long as the health care provider determines, based on professional judgment, that doing so is in the best interests of the patient.”

    Translation: If you have a patient young or old who in your professional opinion is in medical trouble you CAN and SHOULD share your concerns with the above named people.

    Hiding behind laws that don’t say what you think they say and result in harm to the patient reflects negatively against your professional judgment.

  • There’s a big difference between “can” and “should”. The language also defers to the judgment of the professional. Not that it will make a difference in court.


  • I sympathize with the father, but suspect he might have gained broader support if he did not accompany his story with a generalized blast at all the cultural trends of recent years.

  • I appreciate Mr. Olson’s work against the ill effects of HIPAA. I completely understand the concept of majority, but.we are human beings and family and human relationship are important to our sense of self. HIPAA interferes too much with family matters.

    Happy Holidays to Mr. Olson and the overlawyered.com community.

  • Privacy only applies to some people. If it had been police seeking to put the young man in prison, rather than his parents seeking to protect him, the doctor and the school would have been required to open their records.