Hospitals are bound by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (or “HIPAA”), which essentially enshrines a patients’ right to privacy. This prohibits hospitals, doctors, pharmacists and other caregivers from sharing medical information without prior consent or extenuating circumstances.
New York-Presbyterian was fined $2.2 million by federal regulations because it violated the rights of two of its patients. The hospital allowed camera crews to film two patients in serious distress without obtaining their consent and against the instructions of the medical staff. Hospitals owe duties to protect their patients’ privacy and that includes preventing reality T.V. shows from filming them during emergency surgeries (without prior consent).
Specifically, it was ruled that blurring, voice alteration and blacking out faces is insufficient to protect privacy. The patients filmed are still recognizable by their family, friends and by the patients themselves. In fact, this happened to the spouse of one of the filmed patients who recognized her husband one year later on the show.
Moreover, earlier this year New York’s highest court revived a lawsuit filed by one of the families of the patient. So more developments on patient confidentiality may arise in the next few years.
Hospitals owe more duties than just keep you alive. They must also respect your dignity and right to consent. If you believe that a hospital violated your rights or did not ask your permission then you may have an actionable claim and may want to speak to an attorney. Rights of dignity and consent are no less important the duty to keep you alive and in good health. Hospitals must do their best to respect all of your rights, not just the ones that are convenient.