ESPN defends publication of Pierre-Paul’s medical record

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Plenty of people have concerns about ESPN’s decision to publish an image of Jason Pierre-Paul’s medical records. ESPN claims it has no such concerns.

HIPAA does not apply to news organizations,” ESPN said in a statement issued Wednesday night, via CNN.

Regardless of whether the federal law known as HIPAA extends beyond health-care providers (it doesn’t), state privacy laws could apply. Likewise, the court of public opinion always has jurisdiction, and many remain confused by the unnecessary effort to validate an accurate report that no one would have seriously doubted.

ESPN didn’t shy away from publishing the medical record beyond Twitter; it also showed up on SportsCenter last night. (The 7:00 a.m. ET SportsCenter on ESPN2 did not include an image of the record, which perhaps says much more than the seven-word statement issued to ESPN.)

The issue extends beyond the public figure at the heart of the case. The record as posted on Twitter also includes information regarding a 65-year-old male patient with the initials “FC,” whose procedure began at 3:09 p.m. ET on Wednesday. Related information about the procedure (“HAND MAJOR, HAND MICRO, ELBOW RETRACT”) appears above the information about Pierre-Paul’s procedure.

While the other patient isn’t identified beyond the initials, that information definitely should have been redacted before the medical report was displayed to the public.

Absent redaction, it’s all the more reason that ESPN should have simply reported that the finger was being amputated, without showing the medical record. No one was going to dispute the report; instead, a slew of confirming reports would have quickly followed. Besides, if anyone had doubted the report upon its release, ESPN eventually would have been proven right.

Instead, ESPN is now dealing with a situation far stickier than random folks on Twitter questioning the accuracy of the initial report of an amputation.

92 responses to “ESPN defends publication of Pierre-Paul’s medical record

  1. It’s not right to publish someone’s medical records. Maybe a news organization should get a hold of Schefter’s records and post them on Twitter.

  2. Law or not what they did was MORALLY wrong. Period. Too bad that the other patients initials and not his actual name showed up. I’d have loved to see that lawsuit.

  3. At the end of the day, a stupid man child has a digit in the garbage can..
    The HIPAA law should be the last concern of the man child.

  4. ESPN is trash. I avoid it, as a whole, like the plague. Tabloid reporting & sub-par on air talent.

  5. The crazy thing is that I know this had to through their legal department, and knowing several members of Disney’s legal department, they are, like most law departments and lawyers, very risk-adverse. I cannot believe they said yes to publishing those photos.

  6. espn needs to be put out of business. hippa rules apply to every1 including them. bad enough they hire every murderer or drug dealer they can they have crossed the line. what a bunch of losers

  7. HIPPA needs amending if it doesn’t apply to the media. Nothing will get done, though…after all politician’s have their hands full right now. Got to get all of those confederate flags outlawed, y’know, and amending HIPPA does nothing to further the insane left-wing agenda inflicting this nation.

  8. Hippa doesn’t apply to news organizations? Then what’s the point?

    So, the doctor won’t tell me if my wife has cancer without her permission but I can read about it in the community newspaper. That makes a lot of sense.

  9. While HIPPA doesn’t apply DIRECTLY to media outlets hospitals and other healthcare providers routinely refuse to divulge any patient information to the media using HIPPA as the reason. I’m surprised ESPN was able to get the information it did.

  10. It doesn’t really matter why that are legally allowed to do it, it’s still just unnecessary. Just say ESPN has obtain medical records and don’t show them. Actually publishing was going too far.

  11. Not normally one to back a lawsuit but in this case I am all for crippling them financially and shutting that network down.

  12. It’s too bad ESPN didn’t produce the documentation from the halftime measurements of the AFC Championship game balls. Oh wait…those would’ve contradicted their prefabricated narrative. Another great job by ESPN, the most trusted name in journalism.

  13. Shefter was always my favorite among the lowly group of other top NFL insiders.
    But this is bad.

    ESPN defends the legality of it in a tweet but
    can’t defend the ethics of it.
    The source who helped them out could be in serious,
    life-changing legal trouble.
    Yes it is his or her own fault, but I suppose the
    cutthroat 4 letter network couldn’t care less.

    Can we just substitute the jail sentence for this source with Mortensen’s 11/12 source, please?!
    If Shefter was the best insider, Mortensen is still dead last.

  14. Really hope he’s okay, but let’s take a moment to honor the 1963 AFL Champuon SD Chargers, without that team, it would be longer than 52 years without winning anything that mattered.. 52>12

  15. Surely none of us would expect anything else from them?

    By the end of the day we’ll know the privacy laws of the state of Florida, and I suspect they won’t be favorable to them.

    I hate how litigious our society has become, but here’s hoping JPP crushes them with this one.

  16. It’s morally wrong to do this unless JPP told them to. But that’s ESPN. It not journalism, either. Sad state of Sports coverage.

  17. Just another reason to not watch ESPN, which I haven’t for almost 10 years. It is also another reason why the general public does not like the media. It doesn’t matter if they are reporting sports or general news, there are too many times they cross the line in the name of getting the story and being the first to report it. And for what? I hope they get sued and these agencies start thinking more before they publish these type of reports.

  18. Either they obtained the records illegally on their own, or their sources will be fired and lose any licenses and certifications they have. Either way, Schefter is facing charges, or he got his sources canned. Neither is a good look for a news organization that relies on anonymity of sources.

  19. what in the world was ESPN thinking..? and who was the medical professional who violated the HIPAA and gave ESPN someone two other peoples medical records. Just sleaze all around. .

  20. Your point toward the end of the article was my thoughts last night Mike. Even if people doubted the report, within a day or 2 they would have been vindicated without publishing “proof”. Worst case scenario would have been that they had to wait 6 weeks for JPP to show up to work with 9 fingers…

    Im curious to understand why they didnt feel the need to validate Mort’s inaccurate report about deflated footballs (which was proven false), but they did feel the need to validate a report that would have been proven right without any further effort???

  21. So the issue is only that the actual medical record is published. Because if im not wrong NFL “insiders” like the one who runs this site release medical information of players against their will all the time. We are really talking semantics here.

  22. When are they going to respond about the misinformation they reported about the 11-12 Patriots footballs being 2PSI under inflated?

  23. Well enjoy getting handed a lawsuit ESPN! If fellow family members can’t be told this info do they honestly thinking broadcasting it to the world is ok?

  24. Guessing they got the records from JPPs camp, hence the lack of fear. Like you said, not like the information isn’t going to get out

  25. Simply put, someone violated JPP’s HIPAA rights and gave the information to Shefter. As far as I’m concerned, that makes Shefter an accomplice. He certainly was aware that the person giving him the information was breaking the law. I hope the person that did this gets fired.

    I also think HIPAA laws should be amended and media should be held accountable for this type of violation as well.

  26. Issuing the report is not a big deal but there was no reason to publish the source document except for the ridiculous competition that has ruined journalism. They showed the document because they know their reports are suspect due to reporting speculation as fact in the past. If they had any integrity they wouldn’t have shown it and they wouldn’t have needed to.

  27. ESPN is shady as hell for releasing this. However they are correct in saying HIPPA doesn’t apply to them as it shouldn’t. The press in this country need absolute freedom to publish anything. That’s what makes the USA the USA. That being said, with great power comes great responsibility. ESPN failed everyone with this report.

  28. Schefter’s only an accomplice if he “incentivized” whoever gave him the info. For example:

    Employee prints out medical report and leaves it lying out to be photographed – Schefty is doing his job.

    Employee prints out medical report and Schefty gives him $100 to leave it lying out and go get a cup of coffee – Schefty gets a fine.

  29. The source, probably just gave that form to Schefter to prove to Schefter that the information was valid(yes, illegal).

    IMO, Schefter betrayed his source by publishing that the form. If I were a source, no way would I trust Schefter.

  30. ESPN long ago proved that they have little interest in journalistic integrity.

    I am really disappointed in Schefter, who represented one of the last shreds of that integrity.

  31. My guess is that the reporter tweeted first, begged forgiveness from legal later. Not exactly a Disney move ESPN. I hope HIPPA is modified to prohibit publication of medical records/information by anyone without the express written consent of the patient. In this day of Twitter, FB, etc., where anyone can get information out to the masses and common decency is lacking it is needed.

  32. With Olbermann leaving and ESPN in hot water there isn’t a dry eye in my house. Sick and tired of hearing their position over and over on today’s political issues.

    To early to tell, but will the ESPN issue supersede the Tom Brady Deflatgate “witch hunt” or will he have to apologize for being ” good looking, worth approx. 100mm, have 4 SB rings, and be married to a super model. ”

    Time will tell !!!

  33. ESPN really has gone down the crapper, the sports center anchors don’t even know sports that extend beyond football, basketball and baseball and I’m not sure how much they know about this sports besides kind of know how to pronounce SOME players names

  34. ESPN encouraged someone at the hospital to break the HIPAA law. While technically they are not guilty morally and in the court of public opinion they are.

  35. The person who gave ESPN the info can get in trouble with the law, but ESPN is free and clear due to the 1st Amendment. ESPN, though, is under no obligation to share who gave them that information.

  36. They’ll dump any staffer who says a bad word about Goodell but think it’s great when their people publish player’s medical records. ESPN might as well just admit they work for Goodell.

  37. I wouldn’t like my med records released but thing about it. Every day you hear on the news how someone names in an accident was in critical, fair or whatever condition and no one says a thing about it.

    ESPN is a sports news agency. They are supposed to report sports news. If they get a hold of factual information and publish it, fire the person who leaked it not the one who published it.

  38. I never understand the handling of NFL players’ medical info. To name the most prominent example, Dr. Andrews will give interviews about every major operation he does with details on the guy’s progress seemingly without the player knowing anything about it ahead of time. A doctor should never do that but it seems commonplace in the NFL.

  39. Regardless of Whether JPP gets a deal or not, he will likely be getting a Nice Check directly from ESPN when he sues their asses off.

  40. HIPAA might not apply to them, but it sure as heck does for the hospital he’s at. And I wouldn’t doubt ESPN gets dragged into this for obtaining these documents illegally.

  41. ESPN is a joke. I stopped watching after they let go of Simmon’s for destroying Goddell. I’m sure if one of their family member’s Medical reports were released that they wouldn’t be to happy.

  42. ESPN is a news organization? That line belongs on Comedy Central. What about all the nonsense ESPN created about the deflated footballs when it turned out their story was not accurate? I hope JPP takes ESPN to the cleaners, if not for MNF I would never watch the network.

  43. OK ESPN, how about telling us who leaked the lies about the psi levels of the footballs used in the AFCCG to Mortensen?

    You can’t do that because publishing personal medical records is ethical but exposing an NFL official who leaked lies about deflated footballs in an AFCCG would be unethical.

    Is that your story?

  44. I have been simply unable to tolerate SportsCenter for many years. What I did for a long time was watch the half-hour ESPN News segment before going to bed. I think they caught on that many of us would do that instead of watching SportsCenter so now ESPN News is a repository for their crappy day shows of morons arguing about nothing of interest except to the unemployed losers that watch ESPN during the day.

    ESPN would have televised the amputation if it could have. If it wasn’t for watching Hamilton Tigercats games on the Watch ESPN app (I’m an American that loves the CFL) and Monday night football, ESPN would have zero part of my life now.

  45. OTL needs to do piece on the SCUM that is ESPN! I hope streaming KILLS the network and soon.

  46. This is a loophole or weakness in the rules and law that should be closed, pronto. One’s personal medical records should never be for public consumption, regardless of how they were sourced. Liability should extend all the way down the line, not just with the leaker.

  47. How did they get a copy of the x-ray? The security breach is where the authorities should focus their efforts.

    Will the “protection of information sources” argument keep ESPN from having to reveal the source of illegal activity or face punishment?

    What say you Florio?

  48. HIPAA protection doesn’t apply to media? That’s disgusting. The point of HIPAA and HITEC is that the patient is protected against those who collect and store health information. That ESPN would willfully violate that covenant (while possibly defensible legally) speaks volumes about their integrity as a news agency… this is in the same way that publishing the names of minors involved in criminal activity is not illegal everywhere, but widely practiced. Shame on ESPN.

  49. If this was a medical record of him having some kind of problem that is unrelated to his public figure status as a football player then I would agree – since this directly relates to his playing – and the injury was caused while carrying out an illegal activity I think it’s safe to say ESPN is well within it’s rights – I think it would have been reporting malpractice to NOT report it. Schefter has always struck me as a particularly ethical reporter – and a good one as far as sports goes anyway.

  50. Yeah, whoever gave them those records is the one in deep (you know what) for HIPAA Violation.

  51. Giants former player and current radio analyst Carl Banks made a comment earlier today on WFAN that sums it up well. He said when thinking about publishing/posting this kind of information, a journalist should ask themselves: would they do it (or want it done) if that was their own child, parent, or family member? Reporting the story is fine, Banks noted, but there was no need to post the image of the medical record.

  52. I hope the DOJ strikes back at this … not the highlighted penalty. The publication of this information was for ESPN and his own personal gain.

    Criminal Penalties. A person who knowingly obtains or discloses individually identifiable health information in violation of the Privacy Rule may face a criminal penalty of up to $50,000 and up to one-year imprisonment. The criminal penalties increase to $100,000 and up to five years imprisonment if the wrongful conduct involves false pretenses, and to $250,000 and up to 10 years imprisonment if the wrongful conduct involves the intent to sell, transfer, or use identifiable health information for commercial advantage, personal gain or malicious harm. The Department of Justice is responsible for criminal prosecutions under the Privacy Rule.

  53. The lawyer michael (f) is wrong. It applies outside of health care providers. But if you get a persons medical record and you have not signed any HIPAA compliance documents you are free to distribute as you wish.

    The caveat is that you could be sued. I’ll give you a hint, you could lose A LOT of money.

    So maybe michael (f) should keep his legal advice to himself. Especially since he is not even that good at it. Just ask Wal-Mart.

  54. ESPN and Schefter may not get sued over HIPPA violation (the won’t), but Schefter’s “medical sources” surely will. And the man with the initials mentioned in this item will surely bring a civil suit of some kind against at least Schefter, and probably against ESPN, since they have the deeper pockets. And ESPN’s willingness to keep pushing this button just digs their hole deeper. That 65 year old man has a very good case against Schefter/ESPN. JPP’s lawsuit will probably win too.

  55. So why should we be surprised with ESPN or Adam Schefter or the majority of others in the news business who have decided to publish Jason Pierre-Paul’s medical records. After all, its only Pierre-Paul’s livelihood that is at stake and it was only his decision to withhold the information that is being ignored. That doesn’t count because to have accommodated Pierre-Paul’s wishes would have risked however many clicks ESPN and Schefter ultimately received. And each click has a monetary value to them. And that’s their livelihood.
    But there’s the public’s right to know; yeah, I almost forgot about that. There are so many ways to hide behind this 24/7 news cycle’s need for more clicks. And common decency has no relevance when it comes to publishing a story or not.
    I just hope that Adam Schefter and all the others right behind him, don’t one day find themselves the subject in a story of personal tragedy, fully exposed to the world, just because another “reporter” decides his right to make money by any means exceeds Schefter’s right to privacy. Because I believe that even a slug like Schefter would deserve a chance to try and get his life in order if ever he suffered such an event. But that’s just me.

  56. Setting aside the widom/moraility, etc…

    Does the collective bargaining agreement play into this? Members of the NFLPA essentially waive HIPPA per the CBA.

    However, JPP is not currently under contract (though he has a tender as the designated franchise player), but is still a NFLPA member.

    Not sure if it plays into this particular situation or not just wondering out loud. Anybody who knows more about this than me care to chime in?

  57. Working at a healthcare institution myself – if it can be proven that those records were not released by JPP, the healthcare institution where the records were obtained can get a HUGE fine for not protecting the records, no matter how they were released – if it was without the patient’s permission, the hospital is responsible for this legally.

  58. Adam Schefter is a disgusting human being who should not be respected or employed by anyone. There is NEVER a justification for publishing a man’s private medical records for all the world to see. It does not matter that the man did something stupid to require medical attention. That medical attention is his, not Schefter’s.

    Here’s an appropriate quote from Michael Douglas in “The War of the Roses,” slightly modified, to Mr. Schefter. “If this is a ‘who can sink lowest, fastest contest,’ you won. By publishing that record, you have sunk below the deepest layer of pre-historic frog (dung) at the bottom of a New Jersey scum swamp.”

  59. ESPN is not a news organization. At least some “News Organizations” still believe in reporting things that real and factual. The monkeys at ESPN (Mortensen, McShay) have never worried about such things. All that matters is spilling the story first. Muckraking is alive and well at ESPN.

  60. HIPAA laws only apply to health care providers (doctors, clinics, nursing homes, etc.), health plans (HMO’s, company health plans, etc.), and health care clearninghouses. It also only applies to the health care providers IF they transmit the information in electronic form. So it is correct to state that HIPAA laws do not apply to news organizations…or to most other organizations.

    But as many other posters have stated, that doesn’t mean that it’s the ethical thing to do. ESPN has (again) characterized itself in bad light with this decision. If John Skipper (President of ESPN) doesn’t start changing the policies or holding people accountable, Robert Iger (Disney) needs to intervene (unless he condones it).

    And if Robert Iger doesn’t intervene, then we need to start considering alternative parks, resorts, media outlets, motion pictures, etc.

  61. The security section of HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, for those of you who like to spell it with two Ps) covers the record itself. ESPN could find itself viewed as a Business Partner with the hospital as they were a recipient of medical records, regardless of the fact there was no Business Agreement per HIPAA that would authorize them to receive Protected Health Information (PHI), simply because someone from the hospital shared the information with them.

    Of course it’ll be up to the government as to whether they want to make an example of ESPN or not.

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