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ESPN defends publication of Pierre-Paul’s medical record

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.