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Celebrities' Medical Records Tempt Hospital Workers To Snoop

Improper access to the medical information of celebrities and people in the news has been a bane of health systems around the country for years. The proliferation of electronic medical records systems has made it easier to track and punish those who peek in records for no legitimate reason.

Below is a partial list of high-profile breaches and the consequences that followed, compiled from news reports.

Celebrity Medical Record Breaches

  • October 2007

    A bandaged George Clooney seen in New York in 2007, after he was injured in a motorcycle accident.

    A bandaged George Clooney seen in New York in 2007, after he was injured in a motorcycle accident. Robert Pitts/Landov hide caption

    toggle caption Robert Pitts/Landov

    Palisades Medical Center in New Jersey suspended 27 workers without pay for a month for looking at the medical records of actor George Clooney, who had been treated there after a motorcycle accident.

  • March 2008

    Britney Spears was taken to the neuropsychiatric section of the UCLA Medical Center on Jan. 31, 2008. i

    Britney Spears was taken to the neuropsychiatric section of the UCLA Medical Center on Jan. 31, 2008. Valerie Macon/Getty Images hide caption

    toggle caption Valerie Macon/Getty Images
    Britney Spears was taken to the neuropsychiatric section of the UCLA Medical Center on Jan. 31, 2008.

    Britney Spears was taken to the neuropsychiatric section of the UCLA Medical Center on Jan. 31, 2008.

    Valerie Macon/Getty Images

    UCLA Medical Center took steps to fire at least 13 employees and suspended at least six others for snooping in the medical records of pop star Britney Spears during her hospitalization in its psychiatric unit. In addition, six physicians faced discipline.

  • November 2008

    Jacksonville Jaguars player Richard Collier joins his teammates on the sidelines for the national anthem on Dec. 18, 2008. i

    Jacksonville Jaguars player Richard Collier joins his teammates on the sidelines for the national anthem on Dec. 18, 2008. Phil Coale/AP hide caption

    toggle caption Phil Coale/AP
    Jacksonville Jaguars player Richard Collier joins his teammates on the sidelines for the national anthem on Dec. 18, 2008.

    Jacksonville Jaguars player Richard Collier joins his teammates on the sidelines for the national anthem on Dec. 18, 2008.

    Phil Coale/AP

    Jacksonville Medical Center in Florida fired 20 workers for looking at the records of Richard Collier, then an offensive tackle for the Jacksonville Jaguars, who was paralyzed in a shooting.

  • March 2009

    Nadya Suleman was dubbed "Octomom" after the birth of her octuplets. i

    Nadya Suleman was dubbed "Octomom" after the birth of her octuplets. Barcroft Media/Landov hide caption

    toggle caption Barcroft Media/Landov
    Nadya Suleman was dubbed "Octomom" after the birth of her octuplets.

    Nadya Suleman was dubbed "Octomom" after the birth of her octuplets.

    Barcroft Media/Landov

    Kaiser Permanente revealed that 21 employees and two doctors inappropriately accessed the medical records of Nadya Suleman, who gave birth to octuplets at its Bellflower, Calif., hospital. Of those workers, 15 were either terminated or resigned under pressure. Eight faced other disciplinary actions. In May 2009, the California Department of Public Health fined the hospital $250,000 for failing to protect Suleman's records.

  • October 2009

    Guy Cannady, father of Little Rock television news anchor Anne Pressly who was attacked in her home, speaks about his daughter's condition on Oct. 24, 2008.

    Guy Cannady, father of Little Rock television news anchor Anne Pressly who was attacked in her home, speaks about his daughter's condition on Oct. 24, 2008. Danny Johnston/AP hide caption

    toggle caption Danny Johnston/AP

    An Arkansas doctor and two former workers at St. Vincent Medical Center were sentenced to probation and fined after pleading guilty to federal misdemeanor charges that they illegally accessed the records of a Little Rock television news anchorwoman who died in 2008 after being attacked at her home during a robbery.

  • June 2010

    Police tape hangs across the street near the emergency room dock at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, where Michael Jackson was brought after he stopped breathing. i

    Police tape hangs across the street near the emergency room dock at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, where Michael Jackson was brought after he stopped breathing. Mario Anzuoni/Reuters/Landov hide caption

    toggle caption Mario Anzuoni/Reuters/Landov
    Police tape hangs across the street near the emergency room dock at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, where Michael Jackson was brought after he stopped breathing.

    Police tape hangs across the street near the emergency room dock at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, where Michael Jackson was brought after he stopped breathing.

    Mario Anzuoni/Reuters/Landov

    Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center was fined $95,000 by the California Department of Public Health for failing to stop employees from accessing singer Michael Jackson's records. Two hospital workers and two contract employees were terminated.

  • January 2011

    Gabrielle Giffords sits with her husband, Mark Kelly, at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on in 2013. i

    Gabrielle Giffords sits with her husband, Mark Kelly, at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on in 2013. J. Scott Applewhite/AP hide caption

    toggle caption J. Scott Applewhite/AP
    Gabrielle Giffords sits with her husband, Mark Kelly, at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on in 2013.

    Gabrielle Giffords sits with her husband, Mark Kelly, at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on in 2013.

    J. Scott Applewhite/AP

    University Medical Center in Tucson, Ariz., fired three employees for snooping in records after the shooting that left then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in critical condition. A contract nurse also was terminated.

  • July 2011

    UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles has many celebrity patients. i

    UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles has many celebrity patients. Lucy Nicholson/Reuters/Landov hide caption

    toggle caption Lucy Nicholson/Reuters/Landov
    UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles has many celebrity patients.

    UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles has many celebrity patients.

    Lucy Nicholson/Reuters/Landov

    UCLA Health System agreed to pay $865,000 to the federal government to resolve allegations that its employees violated federal patient privacy laws by snooping in the medical records of two celebrity patients. Separately, in January 2010, a former UCLA employee pleaded guilty to four counts of illegally reading medical records, mostly from celebrities and other high-profile patients, and was sentenced to four months in federal prison.

  • July 2013

    Kim Kardashian, North West and Kanye West attend a fashion show in February. i

    Kim Kardashian, North West and Kanye West attend a fashion show in February. Craig Barritt/Getty Images hide caption

    toggle caption Craig Barritt/Getty Images
    Kim Kardashian, North West and Kanye West attend a fashion show in February.

    Kim Kardashian, North West and Kanye West attend a fashion show in February.

    Craig Barritt/Getty Images

    Five workers and a student research assistant were fired for inappropriately accessing records at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. One of those was reportedly reality TV star Kim Kardashian, who gave birth to her daughter at the hospital the prior month.

  • September 2014

    Ebola survivor Dr. Rick Sacra speaks to the media about his experience on Sept. 26, 2014, in Worcester, Mass. i

    Ebola survivor Dr. Rick Sacra speaks to the media about his experience on Sept. 26, 2014, in Worcester, Mass. Stephan Saviola/AP hide caption

    toggle caption Stephan Saviola/AP
    Ebola survivor Dr. Rick Sacra speaks to the media about his experience on Sept. 26, 2014, in Worcester, Mass.

    Ebola survivor Dr. Rick Sacra speaks to the media about his experience on Sept. 26, 2014, in Worcester, Mass.

    Stephan Saviola/AP

    Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha fired two workers for looking in the records of Dr. Rick Sacra, who had been treated at the hospital for the Ebola virus he contracted while volunteering in Africa.

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom based in New York. This story is part of a yearlong examination into the security of medical information. Has your medical privacy been compromised? Help ProPublica investigate by filling out a short questionnaire. You can also read other stories in the Policing Patient Privacy series.

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