Health Law

Celebrity Medical Files Breached at UCLA

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A rogue employee reportedly peeped into confidential medical files of 32 celebrities, politicians and other high-profile patients at UCLA Medical Center, as well as 29 noncelebrities, in 2006 and 2007. Among those whose confidentiality was violated: television personality Maria Shriver, who is the wife of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The unauthorized breach of patient privacy is expected to result in state sanctions against the hospital. A top executive says UCLA learned about breach in May and terminated the employee then. The hospital hasn’t notified affected patients, apparently because it found no evidence that the information had been transmitted to any third party by the employee, according to the Los Angeles Times.

However, the newspaper notes that the hospital fired 13 workers and disciplined another 12 earlier this year for improperly accessing records of pop singer Britney Spears during her stay in UCLA’s neuropsychiatric unit. The earlier breach by the rogue employee also reportedly included the medical file of Farrah Fawcett, a television star and sex symbol of the 1970s, who was being treated there for cancer. Her lawyers say they are concerned that details may have been provided to supermarket tabloids, the Times writes.

Articles in supermarket tabloids reported that Fawcett’s cancer had recurred before the actress had a chance to tell her son the news, according to Fawcett’s representatives.

“We are very concerned by what appears to be a pattern of repeated violations,” Kim Belshé, who is secretary of the state’s Health and Human Services Agency, tells the Times. “It’s not a question of will we take action. It’s determining what level of action to take.”

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