The era of hospital reality TV shows and ER documentaries may be coming to an end, following a landmark ruling that saw New York-Presbyterian Hospital slapped with a $2.2 million fine. Federal regulators ruled that the hospital had knowingly continued to shoot footage of two patients in distressing conditions, without their consent and despite having been asked by doctors to stop. One of the patients was dying at the time the filming took place.
Regulators have once again spoken out against the presence of TV crews and in hospitals and care settings, without the express permission of patients first being obtained. They state that all such crews should and must be prohibited entry, until permission is granted by all patients present.
This would therefore make it impossible for TV crews to shoot real-time footage in emergency situations or of ER admissions, as they would not be able to obtain permission until after the patient in question was able to give it.
In addition, regulators insisted that pixelating faces and muffling voices was not sufficient as a means by which to protect privacy and hide identities. This would therefore spell an immediate end for all reality TV shows and documentaries produced in hospitals, which would normally focus on ER admissions and emergency situations.
“It is not sufficient for a health care provider to request or require media personnel to mask the identities of patients (using techniques such as blurring, pixelation or voice alteration software) for whom an authorization was not obtained,” read the online post published by the Office for Civil Rights with the federal Department of Health and Human Services.
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles emergency medicine department co-chairman Dr. Joel Geiderman said that the ruling would have wide-reaching consequences.
“I think this will have a chilling effect on hospitals going forward,” he said.
“Any hospital legal counsel worth his salt or any P.R. director would be committing malpractice in order to allow it to occur,”
“It’s now embodied in a federal directive.”
New York-Presbyterian has agreed to pay the fine, though insists that no official rules or guidelines were breached in its allowing of television crews to shoot footage of patients. Instead, they insisted that the scenes were filmed as a means by which to “educate the public and provide insight into the complexities of medical care and the daily challenges faced by our dedicated and compassionate medical professionals.”
“This program, and the others that preceded it garnered critical acclaim, and raised the public’s consciousness of important public health issues, including organ transplantation and donation. It also vividly depicted how our emergency department medical team works tirelessly every day to save patients’ lives,” read the statement from the hospital.
Nevertheless, comments from the Office for Civil Rights told quite another story, insisting that without authorization, filming of patients will not be tolerated.
“This case sends an important message that O.C.R. will not permit covered entities to compromise their patients’ privacy by allowing news or television crews to film the patients without their authorization,” commented OCR director Jocelyn Samuels.