Marilyn Monroe’s medical files for sale: Is this allowed under health privacy laws?

October 9, 2013
Actress MarilynMonroe waits in the courtroom of the Superior Court building in Santa Monica, Ca., on Oct. 27, 1954. Monroe is to take the stand and testify in her divorce action against her husband, Joe DiMaggio. (AP Images)
Marilyn Monroe waits in the courtroom of the Superior Court building in 1954. (AP Images)

Yes, it has come to this: They are selling Marilyn Monroe’s medical records. Facial X-rays included.

Good grief! Is there no such thing as privacy anymore? Is this some crazy Obamacare thing?

You may not be surprised to learn that Julien’s Auctions, a Beverly Hills firm specializing in showbiz memorabilia, got a few calls from medical professional organizations about its Nov. 9 and 10 sale. The auction house has done some research of its own.

“There’s nothing legally that says this can’t be done,” Darren Julien, the president and CEO, told us. Happily, the laws have changed over the past 50 years, and this could not happen to today’s stars — or, presumably, even to you.

Marilyn Monroe's X-ray images. (Julien's Auctions)
Marilyn Monroe’s X-ray images. (Julien’s Auctions)

And while there might have been some legal or ethics hurdles, even in the 1960s, had the doctor who treated Monroe attempted to sell them, he never did that, instead giving the records to a friend who had no direct relationship to the patient. That person, whom Julien would not identify — ah, we do value some privacy! — is the one selling the records.

The file, from the office of a Dr. Michael Gurdin, concern a bit of cosmetic work the legendary screen beauty had done (yes, her too, like so many of the others): a “tip rhinoplasty” at the very end of her nose, according to Julien’s. The chart, which begins in 1958, also includes a medical history that includes a 1950 chin implant and a late-night fall in 1962, two months before her death, that prompted some X-rays.  Julien estimated it could sell for as much as $30,000.

“The kind of person who would want to buy this,” he said, anticipating our next question, “is a doctor.” And a big Marilyn fan? “Yes, a doctor that’s a Marilyn fan.”

It’s not the first bit of medical Monroeabilia to hit the market: Julien’s also sold her last chest X-rays for $45,000 to a doctor, who, he said, has them on display in his office. (Surely, this is an office in L.A.? No, actually, he said, it’s not.)

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