The fireworks accident on July 4th has caused Jason Pierre-Paul (JPP), the defensive end for the New York Giants, not only the amputation of his right index finger but also a $60 million contract. When a picture of JPP’s medical chart from this accident was tweeted by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, this caused an uproar on social media. Many weighed in on the legality of the post and the penalties that could result from this violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).
Could JPP have just cause to file a lawsuit against ESPN? Unlikely. “The law (HIPAA) is intended to protect patient privacy and penalize providers for sharing information without a patient’s consent. News media aren’t held to HIPAA, so ESPN is probably safe; instead, the government prosecutes health care workers and organizations that leak the information.“ (Forbes)
Will the hospital be held liable for this incident? Yes. Due to the high exposure of this incident, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will most definitely be investigating this breach. There will be fines levied upon the hospital (Jackson Memorial Hospital) and possible criminal charges brought against the employee(s) directly responsible for the breach of Protected Health Information (PHI).
The lesson to be learned is that there are many reasons HIPAA was created and enforced and in this situation proves the necessity of the regulation. The hospital will be liable for failing to secure the screen where the medical record was obtained. Prior high-profile cases involved the leaks of celebrities such as Britney Spears and Tom Cruise. The result? UCLA Health System was fined approximately $1 million and a employee was sentenced to prison.