UCLA Medical Center has disciplined an employee for snooping in Farrah Fawcett's medical records, the hospital said Wednesday, a few weeks after announcing that several employees were fired for taking peeks at Britney Spears' files.
Fawcett expressed concern to a doctor in May that details of her condition were being leaked to tabloids, and he reported it to hospital executives, UCLA spokeswoman Roxanne Moster said.
Fawcett's attorney, Kim Swartz, said an employee at the hospital accessed Fawcett's medical records without authorization, and details about her cancer treatment later showed up in the National Enquirer. The tabloid published details about a recurrence in Fawcett's cancer before she had a chance to tell family and friends, Swartz said.
"She's a very private person and she's reluctant to go public about this, let alone take legal action," Swartz said. "She's fighting for her life."
The Los Angeles Times reported on its Web site Wednesday that hospital officials fired an employee who reviewed Fawcett's records without authorization.
The UCLA spokeswoman would not confirm a firing and would not specify the disciplinary action.
Moster said the hospital requires all staff to complete training on patient privacy issues and sign confidentiality agreements.
Doctors declared Fawcett, 61, cancer-free in February 2007, but her cancer returned a few months later.
"It's disturbing to her when there are false reports that she's given up and wants to die, when the opposite is true," said Swartz. "She's a strong person and a fighter."
Enquirer senior reporter Alan Smith told the Times that Fawcett's cancer is newsworthy.
"We publish what we believe is accurate," he said.
The 1970s television icon is currently being treated for cancer in Germany.
"She is cautiously optimistic," Craig J. Nevius told the Times. Nevius is producing a documentary about the former star of "Charlie's Angels" and her battle with cancer.
"Farrah has learned the hard way that with cancer, the test is time. At the moment she has no detectable cancer," he said.
Last month, UCLA Medical Center announced the firing of 13 workers and disciplined several others for snooping into Spears' records.
The California Department of Public Health launched an inquiry into UCLA's handling of Fawcett's files, just as it had after the Spears incident, the Times reported.
It was the second time that Fawcett's privacy had been breached at UCLA, according to the Times.
When contacted by Access Hollywood, a spokesperson for the university medical center said, "UCLA Health System considers patient confidentiality a critical part of our mission of teaching, research and patient care. All staff members are required to sign confidentiality agreements as a condition of their employment and complete extensive training on HIPAA-related privacy and security issues. We have stringent policies to protect patient confidentiality and address violations of those policies.
When possible confidentiality breaches arise, UCLA immediately launches an investigation and appropriate disciplinary action would then be initiated. Due to the confidential nature of both patient and personnel issues, no further information is available.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provides national standards to protect the security and privacy of a patient’s health information."