HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Medical Records Privacy - Not so Private for Celebrities in California

I am hoping that people who work in the health field (or people who wear white coats in attempt to resemble a medical professional) in LA are perhaps a little nosier than the rest of the health care workers in America.  It seems that some individuals cannot help but delve into famous people's medical records.  The LA Times reports today on California Governor Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver's news that their medical records had been accessed by inappropriate individuals multiple times.  Oops!

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said this morning that the snooping into his wife's medical records by an unauthorized UCLA Medical Center employee follows a long history of such intrusions on California's first couple.  "I have been a victim of this in my own hospital visits," Schwarzenegger said at a news conference to promote volunteerism, "if it was for heart surgery or hip surgery, shoulder surgery, all of those things."  Every time he has left an operating room, the governor said, he has been told there were "people going through your file that had white coats on. Obviously, they snuck into the hospital. They had nothing to do with the hospital staff at all. So those things happen."

Really, "those things happen."  Isn't there some federal law that requires "covered entities" to place medical files where random people wearing white coats cannot get to them?? 

The Times reported in today's paper that California first lady Maria Shriver and 1970s TV icon Farrah Fawcett were among 32 celebrities, politicians and other high-profile patients at UCLA Medical Center whose files were improperly viewed by an employee.  Schwarzenegger reiterated that his administration will push hospitals to implement new safeguards to stop such snooping.

"It is not just UCLA," he said. "This kind of thing has been happening all over the state, wherever there are celebrities involved. . . . Everyone's medical history ought to be protected. That is the responsibility of the hospital. So we are going to work with them and find a way."

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