Amidst the constant barrage of news reports seeking to cover every possible aspect of the late Michael Jackson’s life and death, one Hollywood doc is coming under fire from others in the profession for comments he made on “Larry King Live.” Dr. Arnie Klein, hailed as the “father of cosmetic dermatology” and “the dermatologist to the stars,” may have violated medical law.
Writing for Salon.com, Dr. Rahul K. Parikh recaps some of the revelations Klein made on King’s show shortly after the singer’s death:
Klein began by revealing personal details about his friendship with the singer. To my surprise, he then divulged facts about Jackson that only a physician knows about a patient. In describing his first meeting with Jackson, Klein noted how the singer had “a butterfly rash and he also had severe crusting you could see on the anterior portion of his scalp.” He subsequently “did a biopsy” on Jackson and diagnosed him with Lupus, an autoimmune disorder that causes those and other symptoms.
Klein went on to reveal many other details, like how he was “rebuilding” Jackson’s face before his comeback concert. On the subject of drug use, Klein continued to chat up the audience. He admitted to providing Jackson with Demerol to sedate him and stated that, contrary to reports, Jackson was not “riddled with needle marks” (though Klein told King he never examined his entire body). Perhaps most revealingly, Klein, as if he had Jackson’s chart in front of him, dished about the singer’s past medical history. “Michael, at one time, had an addiction,” he said. “And he went to England and he withdrew that addiction at a secure setting, where he went off of drugs altogether. And what I told Michael when I met him in this present situation when I was seeing him, that I had to keep reducing the dosage of what he was on, because he came to me with a huge tolerance level.”
According to Dr. Parikh, the comments went beyond disrespect, “If I or any other doctor revealed those kinds of intimate medical details publicly, we might be vulnerable to a charge of violating federal health privacy laws, a punishable offense.”
Again, “These laws stem from 1990s legislation known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA. Basically, the law forbids medical professionals from disclosing health information unless a patient provides consent to do so.”
After Jackson’s death, Klein’s attorney, Richard Charnley, released a statement requesting privacy that directly referenced HIPAA:
“Dr. Klein is aware of media reports connecting him to Michael Jackson. Because of patient confidentiality, Dr. Klein will make no statement on any reports or allegations. Out of respect for his patients and adherence to federal HIPAA regulations, Dr. Klein asks that the media not contact him or his patients, nor interfere with their medical treatments. Like millions of Michael’s fans around the world, Dr. Klein is saddened by Michael’s death and extends his condolences to the family.”
And then he jumped into the spotlight on “Larry King Live.”
HIPPA also applies to deceased individuals, Parikh says.