Felix Damm, the long-standing press lawyer for the Schumacher family, has discussed the management of the extensive privacy surrounding Michael Schumacher‘s health.
He also spoke about the absence of an official report on his condition, almost 10 years after his skiing accident in Meribel, France.
Damm recalled the intense media presence outside Grenoble Hospital in the days following the accident, where the first general details about Schumacher‘s injuries were shared during press conferences with treating physicians.
“I still have in my mind the image of the many journalists and photographers who, for days after the accident, waited for information outside the hospital in Grenoble,” he told the German publication LTO.
“To relieve the pressure, the first general information about the injuries was given at press conferences at which the treating doctors were also present.
“In reality, the content was classified as private. That was really new. Until then, information about private matters had been absolutely taboo.”
Regarding the absence of a final health report on the F1 legend, Damm revealed that they considered it but decided against it.
Such a report would be insufficient as the public would continually seek updates, creating a legal dilemma if they wished to suppress the information later.
“It was always about protecting private things,” Damm added.
“Of course, we discussed a lot about how to make it possible, so we also considered whether a final report on Michael‘s health might be the right way to do it.
“But that would not have been the end and there would have had to be constantly updated reports.
“The media, again and again, would ask ‘And how is he now?’, one, two, three months or years after the message.
“And if we then wanted to take action against this information, we would have to deal with the argument of the voluntary disclosure we would have made.”
Damm also highlights that not even friends can discuss Schumacher‘s condition, as doing so could be legally challenged.
This safeguards against the involuntary disclosure of private information by friends or acquaintances.
“If it is not the person concerned himself but friends or acquaintances who disclose private information, it is not a case of ‘voluntary self-disclosure’ of privacy,” Damm noted.
“Therefore, the data subject can defend himself against disclosure of private circumstances even if the information comes from acquaintances”.
What do we know about Michael Schumacher’s health?
Little is known about Schumacher‘s current condition, except that he emerged from a coma in 2014 and remains unable to communicate or walk. It is known that he is cared for at home by a substantial medical staff.
Damm‘s legal actions against media outlets publishing inaccurate information have provided the limited insight into Schumacher‘s situation.
The lawyer notes the media’s ability to fabricate stories based on minimal information, highlighting instances where magazines created content through AI-generated interviews.
Damm acknowledged that fans are eager for updates on Schumacher‘s condition but believes that most supporters can understand and respect the need for privacy due to the ongoing process since the accident.
“Unfortunately, a recent press report forces us to clarify that the claim that Michael could move again is not true,” he acknowledged.
“I was surprised at how much the media report despite the fact that there is no reliable information; how much supposed stories can be spun from zero information.
“As a result, it went so far that Die Aktuelle simply invented an AI-generated interview and put it on the front page.
“When a magazine headline said ‘He is no longer with us’ and created the tasteless impression that Michael Schumacher had died, the publisher had to pay 100,000 euros for this.
“I don’t know of any case in which a higher monetary compensation had to be paid for the publication of a judgement. This can definitely be considered a success.”