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Privacy Law

Farrah Fawcett ‘Sting’ Put Spotlight on National Enquirer

Posted May 11, 2009 7:19 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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It wasn't just dozens of high-profile medical files that a rogue worker at UCLA Medical Center peeped into between 2003 and 2007.

It was nearly 1,000, reports the Los Angeles Times in a lengthy article today that focuses on one of the victims of the illegal invasion of privacy, actress Farrah Fawcett.

Fawcett, who was diagnosed in 2006 with anal cancer, became convinced that a hospital employee was responsible for repeated articles about her medical condition in the National Enquirer. So, the former Charlie's Angels star tells the newspaper, she set up a real-life sting to show UCLA it needed to take a look at its internal operations.

After information known only to Fawcett and her doctor was quickly leaked to the supermarket tabloid, the Times reports, UCLA investigated and an employee was eventually charged. The woman pleaded guilty in December to a single count of violating federal medical privacy law for commercial purposes, but herself died of cancer before she could be sentenced, the newspaper reports.

State health inspectors concluded that she had peeped into the medical records of 939 patients, without legitimate reason, between 2003 and 2007, the Times writes.

The local U.S. Attorney's office continues to investigate, and Fawcett wants to see the Enquirer targeted for its alleged role in paying a UCLA employee to obtain her medical information, the newspaper article states.

A lawyer for the supermarket tabloid's parent company declined to discuss the investigation. However, he told the Times in a written statement that the "National Enquirer respects Ms. Fawcett and her brave battle with cancer, and acknowledges, as she has, that her public discussion of her illness has provided a valuable and important forum for awareness about the disease."

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Celebrity Medical Files Breached at UCLA"

ABAJournal.com: "127 UCLA Medical Center Workers Peeped Into Celebrity Files, Report Says"

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