Orange County

Family Unable to Access Son's Medical Records Shares Story in Hopes of Protecting Others

Federal health care privacy laws known as HIPAA prevent doctors from sharing information once children turn 18

An Orange County family whose son eventually died after suffering sudden cardiac arrest is sharing their story, hoping to protect other families from the pain they've suffered.

The Hogates never expected their healthy son Kevin would suffer a catastrophic health event. Only after it happened did they realize they couldn't access his medical information.

"He was just an amazing kid, always so kind and helpful," Kate Hogate said of her late son.

During Kevin's sophomore year at college, the unthinkable happened. The 20-year-old suffered sudden cardiac arrest playing video games in his dorm room.

"To see him in a paralytic state, with a respirator and more than 20 different IVs hanging from multiple racks going into him … it was just unimaginable," father Scott Hogate said.

Kevin's parents soon learned in that critical moment they did not have access to their own son's medical record.

"I felt like nobody was really forthcoming to say, 'here's what we know, here's what we can explain to you of what we know has happened," Kate Hogate said.

That's because federal health care privacy laws known as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) prevent doctors from sharing information once children become legal adults at age 18.

Attorney Todd Litman recommends his clients have their children sign three documents beginning with a health care directive and a HIPAA privacy waiver.

A durable power of attorney is also recommended, which allows parents to sign legal documents in case of an emergency.

It's something Kate Hogate meant to do from the time Kevin started college.

"In my head I weighed all these factors, thinking the risk was so low that I wouldn't need it, and yet here I am saying to myself, 'I Wish I had done this, because you just don't know."

The 20-year-old former Eagle Scout who didn't use drugs or party suffered repeated cardiac arrest in the hospital and eventually died.

While the Hogates are grateful for the doctors and nurses who tried to save their son, they desperately needed more forthcoming conversations.

"It always felt like it was guarded in that they felt they had to tiptoe around what they could or could not say," Kate Hogate said.

She added that if they had the documentation in place it would have been easier.

They're sharing their story in the hopes of "helping people not go through what we went through," she said.

"The sting never goes away," Scott Hogate added.

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