Did the foremost reporter in all of professional sports violate HIPAA laws?  That’s the question a lot of us were asking after Adam Schefter posted this tweet of Jason Pierre-Paul’s medical records showing that he had a finger amputated after an incident shooting off fireworks to celebrate the 4th of July.

Either Schefter has some connections inside the Giants organization that wanted to get this news out or his network of sources has expanded to local hospitals around the country.

Immediately after Schefter’s tweet, there were some serious questions regarding the legality, or at least the ethical nature, of publishing a screenshot of the medical record.  Schefter’s tweet even caused “HIPAA” to trend nationwide, something that’s probably never happened before in the history of the medium.

You don’t have to be a medical practitioner to know that HIPAA laws are taken very, very seriously by everyone.  According to SI’s Michael McCann, Schefter did not violate HIPAA as a media member, but invading JPP’s privacy could be an issue here, especially if he didn’t consent to the release of the medical report.  That is a decent assumption to make since he didn’t blast it out on his own Twitter page.

Whoever released the medical record to Schefter could stand in violation of HIPAA, though:

That aligns with what ESPN said in a statement Wednesday night, “HIPAA does not apply to news organizations.”

So while Schefter and ESPN may be in the clear legally, the question then has to turn to whether posting the medical record was the correct or ethical decision to make.

Adam Schefter is the most respected, most read, most well-sourced, most followed reporter in America.  What he says regarding the inner workings of the NFL is gospel.  If he tweeted simply the text above in the tweet without a picture of Pierre-Paul’s medical record, the story does not change at all.  Schefter has enough trust built up over time that we would take his word for it.  He could have left “medical record” out of the discussion altogether and used “well-placed source” and it still would have been rock solid.

Yes, it’s always great to have tangible evidence of what you’re reporting, but was that really necessary in this case?  Especially considering these were someone’s private medical records and someone somewhere along the line likely broke the law to get them published?  Schefter and ESPN appear to be within their legal rights to publish the information given to them by a source on this occasion, but just because they could do it didn’t mean they had to.

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