Farrah Fawcett Fought for Privacy While Battling Cancer

Farrah Fawcett set a trap for hospital employees she suspected of leaking info.

May 11, 2009, 8:53 PM

May 12, 2009 — -- As Farrah Fawcett publicly battles terminal anal cancer, tabloids continue to clamor for the latest information about the 62-year-old's condition as the television icon fights to protect her privacy and patient rights.

In a move reminiscent of her famed show "Charlie's Angels," the '70s cover girl carried out her own sting operation to stop leaks about her condition.

And she gave the details of her sleuth skills to the Los Angeles Times in an exclusive interview that took place in August 2008 but wasn't published until Monday.

Fawcett said she had long suspected tabloids were getting a constant flow of information on her condition from inside the UCLA Medical Center, the hospital where she was being treated.

"When she would see an eye doctor, there would be a tabloid report she was going blind; when she got a pap smear, they'd say she was having a hysterectomy," said Los Angeles Times reporter Charles Ornstein, who spoke exclusively to Fawcett in August about her condition.

So when Fawcett's doctor told her that her cancer had returned in 2007, she deliberately withheld the news from her friends and family in order to prove that someone from the hospital was leaking information.

"I set it up with the doctor. I said, 'OK, you know and I know.' And I knew that if it came out, it was coming from UCLA," Fawcett said. "I couldn't believe how fast it came out — maybe four days.

The hospital discovered an employee had tapped into Fawcett's information more often that her own doctors. Fawcett asked the hospital for the employee's name, but it refused to give it to her.

"They said, 'We have a responsibility to protect our employees,'" Fawcett said.

"And I said, 'More than your patients?'" Fawcett recalled asking.

Eventually, after months of requests, UCLA gave Fawcett's lawyers the name of the administrative specialist who had gone through her records, the Los Angeles Times reported. Just as the hospital moved to fire Lawanda Jackson in July 2007, she quit, the paper said.

Prosecutors learned that the National Enquirer had paid the employee more than $4,600 for the actress's medical information, beginning in 2006. The checks were made out to Jackson's husband.

Jackson pleaded guilty in December to a felony charge of violating federal medical privacy laws for commercial purposes, but she died in March of cancer before she could be sentenced.

A spokesman for the UCLA Medical Center said they were "disturbed" by the release of Fawcett's private medical information and have "worked diligently" in the past year to ensure patient privacy.

Farrah Fawcett's Future, Family Troubles

Today, the former pinup girl, known for her golden tresses, has lost her once-defining trait.

According to her longtime companion, Ryan O'Neal, Fawcett has lost her iconic blond hair and her condition is deteriorating.

"She's in bed with an IV. They're not trying any great measures to save her," O'Neal told People magazine.

Reports surfaced that the always slender Fawcett had shrunk to 84 pounds. It's a claim her doctor refuted on "Good Morning America" in April.

"She is 101 pounds. She has challenges every day with the fight with cancer. As long as she is able to fight, she will keep fighting," said Dr. Lawrence Piro. Piro said Fawcett had a "reasonable weight" under the circumstances.

In addition to her health struggles, Fawcett also has had to deal with her son's legal issues.

O'Neal and Fawcett's son, Redmond O'Neal, is currently behind bars for a drug-related probation violation, but the 24-year-old was allowed to visit with his mother for what might be his final goodbye.

"He crawled into bed with her in his jail jumpsuit and his shackles on, and he cuddled with his mother and cried," Ryan O'Neal told People magazine. O'Neal told Redmond not to rattle his shackles and to hide them from his mother.

Redmond is said to be terrified for his mother, but Fawcett remains hopeful that her fight for medical privacy might be part of her legacy.

"I'm holding onto the hope that there is some reason that I got cancer and there is something," Fawcett said. "I might not be very clear to me right now, but that I will do."

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