Father Says Privacy Law Played Role in Son's Death

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The father of a Temple student who died of a heroin overdose will testify before Congress on Thursday that the patient privacy law known as HIPAA prevented him from knowing important information that could have saved his son. NBC10's Rosemary Connors spoke to the father. (Published Wednesday, Apr 24, 2013)

    A local father says a law designed to protect the privacy of patients stopped him from knowing important information that could have saved his son’s life.

    Gregg Wolfe says his 21-year-old son, Justin was struggling with addiction. The Temple University student told his father he was addicted to prescription drugs. While Wolfe tried to get his son help, Justin’s problems ended up being much more serious.

    Justin was actually addicted to heroin and died of an accidental overdose last December. Due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act(HIPAA) however, doctors could not tell Justin’s parents about the heroin use. While Gregg and his wife’s health insurance covered their son’s outpatient treatment, Justin was still considered a legal adult.

    Gregg insists he would have acted different if he had known his son was addicted to heroin.

    “Justin would have had to go into an inpatient rehab,” said Wolfe. “I would have made sure that he did. He wouldn’t have had use of a phone and his car would’ve been removed.”

    On Thursday, Wolfe will travel to Washington where he will testify during a congressional hearing on HIPAA and public safety. He wants the law amended to allow families to be informed in the case of addiction and mental disease.

    “I’m hoping to get legislation,” said Wolfe. “Not only in honor of Justin but in order to save many more lives that are out there.”