CV NEWS FEED // Medical practitioners on a military base denied a mother access to her child’s medical records based on Department of Defense health policies.
Amy Haywood, military mother and author of The Primary Educator newsletter, shared her story about how the government overstepped its bounds and obstructed her parental rights in the healthcare system.
Two years ago, Haywood and her family moved overseas for a military assignment. When she took her child to the doctor for a wellness visit, the doctor asked her to leave the room so that they could ask more “invasive” questions without the interference of a parent.
This raised concerns for Haywood, especially since the doctor was “a complete stranger to us — as are most doctors in this transient lifestyle.” Haywood suspected that the invasive questions would deal with “adolescent confidentiality issues —substance abuse, mental health issues, identity, sexual health issues, [and] pregnancy,” Haywood told CatholicVote:
These are issues when parents should be MOST involved in their adolescents’ lives in order to guide them with the best advice to help them grow into healthy adults. If I don’t know the doctor, I simply can’t trust him or her to give my child the best advice on life.
In addition, Haywood tried to view her child’s medical records through an online platform but was denied access. “I was barred from accessing my child’s online medical record from 12 years of age onward,” she wrote. “I came to learn, my child was not allowed to have her own password or create her own account until she turns 18.”
Due to these restrictions, neither Haywood nor her child are able to access the medical records. “When I asked the doctor for the reason why, she said it was ‘above her paygrade,’” Haywood said.
After being asked to leave the room (which she ultimately did not) and after being barred from viewing the records, Haywood decided to take action.
“It was difficult to get the official DoD policy that allows for the online information blocking of parents; it took months,” she told CatholicVote. She continued:
It was frustrating that my child’s doctor and even the base Tricare office could not produce the DoD policy and the underlying law. While I was waiting on them, I filed a FOIA request with the Defense Health Agency, and my U.S. senator opened up casework to try to get DoD to send me the policy.
As she waited for answers from officials, Haywood began to do her own research. She found that “though the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) gives parents access to their children’s medical records until they turn 18, it cedes this privacy rule to state law, which means parents may lose such access.”
After all of her investigations, the federal government finally provided Haywood with an answer. They wrote that when “states have conflicting laws and that is paired with DoD’s global presence, the default is to preserve patient rights.”
“In other words,” wrote Haywood, “on an overseas base, if California’s confidentiality laws that favor adolescent autonomy would conflict with Florida’s confidentiality laws that favor parental access, DHA [Defense Health Agency] would decide the policies.”
I had reasonably (but incorrectly) assumed that in the absence of state law’s guidance on privacy, the fallback would be federal law, HIPAA, which gives parents access to minor medical records as their minors’ personal representatives until 18. I never thought the fallback would be policy created by unelected bureaucrats at DHA.
“This should be concerning to all Americans because this is happening in a military clinic—not a private hospital or private doctor’s office—this is the executive branch of the federal government,” Haywood told CatholicVote. She continued:
I don’t remember seeing this go through the legislative branch. If there was a public debate about denying fit parents access to their unemancipated children’s online medical records or requiring fit military parents to get their unemancipated child’s permission to access sensitive personal health information in their physical records, I missed it. Something like this should have to go through the legislative branch. DoD is not supposed to make laws.
As for the answer to her question of why parents were required to leave the room during the medical exam, Haywood says she is “still waiting on DoD’s justification of this practice.” From her own research, “it looks like asking parents to leave the room is just based on guidelines from medical professional associations—but that doesn’t carry the weight of law or a requirement.”
In the end, Haywood only got some of her questions answered and her concerns addressed.
Readers can find her full story here.
Haywood offered some advice to any parent that might be struggling with their rights in the medical field.
“When it comes to leaving the room, you can talk with your child beforehand to let them know that the doctor may ask you to leave the room so they can ask very personal questions,” she said:
If you’re more comfortable staying with your child, it’s best if you and your child can be a united front to let the doctor know a parent will be staying in the room. Parents should be sure they’re the first ones to frame the issues before a stranger at school or at the doctor’s office starts giving them advice.