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The speculation following the Fourth of July weekend was rampant. Rumors were flying that New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul had seriously injured himself in a fireworks mishap in Florida.
ESPN appeared to confirm those rumors Wednesday when it reported that medical records showed Pierre-Paul had his right index finger amputated. So how did ESPN get the medical records? And did the publication of the records violate medical privacy laws?
A Giant Leak
Amidst speculation about the nature of Pierre-Paul's injuries, ESPN's Adam Schefter sent this tweet:
ESPN obtained medical charts that show Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul had right index finger amputated today. pic.twitter.com/VI5cbS1uCw-- Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 8, 2015
The tweet includes a photo of what appears to be a medical chart, clearly showing Pierre-Paul's name and details of the amputation. At this point, it is unclear how Schefter and ESPN obtained the records or if Pierre-Paul consented to their release. If he didn't, someone could be in trouble
The privacy of our medical records is regulated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which requires doctors and other health care providers to protect personal medical information and prohibits the release of medical records without patient consent. HIPAA, however, only applies to health care providers, not media outlets who enjoy more extensive First Amendment protections.
"I think the government will investigate what took place at the hospital where he's been staying to see who had access to those records, who could have disclosed them. There could be a request to ESPN and Adam Schefter to provide information as to how he obtained these records. He doesn't have to cooperate; he could be subpoenaed. It could become a dicey situation ... it could raise some interesting issues about the rights of a reporter versus the rights of the person that the reporter is investigating."
So while Pierre-Paul may not have a cause of action against Schefter or ESPN, he may be able to sue the hospital and its employees for illegally releasing his medical records.
Oh, and reports have Pierre-Paul making a full recovery from his missing digit, and he expects to play this season.