Farrah Fawcett Fought for Privacy While Battling Cancer

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

ByABC News via logo
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.