Wife of Murdered A-P Football Coach: 'Nightmare that could have been prevented'

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Jan Thomas talks about her husband Ed Thomas at Parkersburg High School on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2011, in Parkersburg, Iowa. A biography of the much respected Ed Thomas is being released. (SourceMedia Group News/Jim Slosiarek)

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By Aaron Hepker

WASHINGTON — An Iowa woman whose life was changed by gun violence and mental health issues addressed a Congressional subcommittee Friday.

Jan Thomas is the wife of Aplington-Parkersburg High School football coach Ed Thomas who was shot and killed by a former student in 2009. Mark Becker had a history of mental issues.

Thomas spoke before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Friday morning.

The hearing was held to discuss how the HIPAA law helps or hurts patient care and public safety. The law regulates how hospitals and health care clinics disclose patient information to the public, law enforcement and the media.

Thomas told the committee that the shooting was a nightmare that could have been prevented.

Thomas talked about how Mark Becker was hospitalized with mental health issues just days before her husband was shot. Due to HIPAA rules, Thomas said law enforcement was not notified when Becker was released from the hospital even though they had requested that information.

"No one knew that Mark had been released, but Mark's privacy had been protected," said Thomas.

Thomas said that due to HIPAA even Becker's parents couldn't get information or help make decisions to get him treatment.

Thomas asked the committee, "Is the privacy of one individual more sacred than one life? Is it more important than the welfare of our general public? Is it more important than allowing our law enforcement to know when a potentially dangerous offender is released back into the community they risk their lives every day to protect?"

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