Swiss officials say the man accused of stealing Michael Schumacker's medical records for profit was found dead in his cell on Wednesday morning.
International Business Times's Tabatha Kinder notes the unnamed man was "a manager at Swiss helicopter air rescue company Rega." In June, Rega transported the Formula 1 driver from Zurich, Switzerland, where he was placed in a medical coma to recover from a devastating ski accident, to Lausanne, Switzerland, for further recovery.
According to "Man Accused of Leaking Michael Schumacher Medical Files Found Hanged," the Rega employee "was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of violating patient privacy and medical secrecy," but maintained innocence. In a statement released to the press, local prosecutors said the suspect was being detained in a Zurich jail, when guards found the man dead in his cell this morning.
An official investigation found no one else to be involved in the death.
Meanwhile, Rega's denied any wrongdoing in the original case. Early last month, the company stated the medical files were stolen and the culprit offered a €50,000 purchase price to anyone willing to pay.
We are deeply touched by all the messages to get well soon for Michael which still are being sent from all over the world.— Michael Schumacher (@SchumiOfficial) June 29, 2014
This is not the first time a celebrity's medical records have been breached or stolen.
In 2013, six employees were fired after Kim Kardashian's medical records from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center were leaked. Los Angeles Times' Anna Gorman and Abby Sewell's piece on the controversy offered more background about the major Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) breach.
The documents concerned the birth of her daughter North West with rapper Kanye West. Five hospital employees and one student research assistant were caught snooping patient files. One of the accused checked at least 14, while five accessed only one patient file.
Cedars-Sinai's chief privacy officer, David Blake, found any "unauthorized access to any patient's record is, quite simply, unacceptable."
HIPAA's meant to protect access to any patient's file and gives the patient control of who may see the records. While the L.A. case is not entirely similar to Schumacher's, the bounty price on all things celebrity has helped in creating a problematic environment.
Kardashian's invasion is not the first, either.
Gorman and Sewell notes the major problem with Los Angeles, since UCLA Health System found a major breach that compromised at least Britney Spears, Farah Fawcett and Maria Shriver in 2008. And one employee was convicted of selling the information to The National Enquirer. UCLA paid $865,000 in a settlement with federal regulators since HIPAA is federally mandated.
Joseph Conn's "Medical record breaches following Kardashian birth reveal ongoing issue" plainly states that snooping is to be expected—even if it breaches federal law. Angela Rose spoke to the Modern Healthcare journalist, saying ,"As long as you're a public figure, in the public eye, whether you're a local anchor, or a politician or Kim Kardashian, it strikes an interest."
Rose works as the director for health information management practice excellence at the American Health Information Management Association in Chicago, meaning she has a clear understanding of the problem.
"The policies and procedures have definitely gotten more strict, the state and federal laws have gotten more strict, but it still happens." Especially since that year, People reportedly offered a $2 million reward for any first baby pictures as the mother went into a 40-day seclusion.
Money is a serious motivator, but is it the only one? "There is still human curiosity and there's still human error."
Not every account spied on is for a celebrity. Politicians face the same scrutiny, like Bill Clinton during a heart surgery, but without any serious deterrent beyond a possible $50,000 fine, no one feels any urgency to keep legal documents sealed.
When a physician and two employees looked at the medical records of a murdered Arkansas TV journalist in 2009, the culprits were only fined and sentenced to probation.
And American Medical News describes how Huping Zhou was sentenced in 2010. Accessing Tom Hanks, Drew Berrymore and Arnold Schwarzenegger's files among many other celebrities in 2003 didn't really get the former UCLA hospital employee very far.
Even if his lawyer claimed a lack of medical record confidentiality laws due to international differences, HIPAA is a document every patient must sign upon receiving health care in the United States. The document would not be hidden in any file.
The case involved the physician pleading guilty to "four misdemeanor counts of violating the federal privacy provisions." Zhou also received a $2,000 fine and four months in jail.
So if data breaching has been actively acknowledged since at least 2008, why was it so easy for Shumacher's files to be accessed? And put out up for sale? Why has a stronger system not be implemented for securing all patient files?