Ask Mar­i­lyn

Los Angeles Times - - PARADE - By Mar­i­lyn vos Sa­vant

How can the me­dia report so much about the med­i­cal sit­u­a­tions of celebri­ties and politi­cians? Does free­dom of the press trump the HI­PAA law in these cases?

—A.B. , Down­ers Grove, Ill. No, the HI­PAA law, which pro­tects the pri­vacy of health in­for­ma­tion, is al­most ab­so­lute. Pub­lic fig­ures are def­i­nitely pro­tected. When you see de­tails about their health in the news, it’s be­cause: 1. They re­leased it them­selves; or 2. A snooper viewed records with­out au­tho­riza­tion (a HI­PAA vi­o­la­tion in it­self) and leaked de­tails, e.g., when hos­pi­tal em­ploy­ees shared pri­vate in­for­ma­tion about Michael Jackson, Brit­ney Spears and Far­rah Fawcett. In all those in­stances, the em­ploy­ees were fired, and their med­i­cal in­sti­tu­tions were sued.

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