Service of Privacy II

January 15th, 2015

Categories: ER, Medical Care, Privacy

watching tv late at night

In a holiday card a friend mentioned that she suffered from a condition I wasn’t familiar with. So I looked it up on Google, but I did so reluctantly. I figured that my SPAM file would soon be filled with remedies for the disease and that commercials about them would appear every time I opened Facebook, CVS or Amazon.

In The New York Times Metropolitan section Charles Ornstein wrote “Dying in the E.R. and on TV,” about a family shocked to learn that their father/husband’s last minutes on earth in an ER appeared on “NY Med.” His wife happened upon the program during a sleepless night about a year after her husband’s death. He’d been run over and doctors were shown trying to save him. They couldn’t.

no entry without permissionNobody got his or the family’s permission to film him nor were they aware that a film crew was in the ER. Even though the health department concluded that the hospital “had violated” the patient’s “rights and indeed, its own privacy policy” regulators “did not impose any sanctions on the hospital,” wrote Ornstein.

He continued, “Federal health officials are still reviewing whether NewYork-Presbyterian was obliged to get permission” from the patient “or his family before allowing a TV crew to film him.” The hospital’s lawyers argued in State Supreme Court that you need permission to share information after a person has been examined/treated but that the film was shot before. An appellate panel dismissed the case. The conduct “‘was not so extreme and outrageous’ to justify a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress,’ the judges wrote.”

Hospital erThe hospital also claimed that they didn’t identify the patient and nobody would know who he was. However a woman who knew the family called the patient’s wife and asked if she’d seen the program as she’d recognized her husband on the show. The wife and children said that they were traumatized.

The family wants the case to go in front of a jury as they feel that their peers would agree that “a wrong was done.” At the moment apparently there is no case. The dead man’s wife said that if there wasn’t a law to prevent such filming there should be one and she plans to make it her business to get one.

Would you want to be photographed in the E.R. without permission while out of it or subject a family member to the same, regardless of outcome of the treatment? Do you feel this instance was a breach of privacy? Do you think that the judges, who wrote that there was no “intentional infliction of emotional distress,” might say the same of anyone who has injured someone in an accident that clearly they did not mean to happen? Wouldn’t such a precedent remove the potential of millions of lawsuits in any number of instances?A law

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10 Responses to “Service of Privacy II”

  1. Donna Boyle Schwartz Said:

    Donna wrote on Facebook: That is just horrible! Maybe there was no “intentional” harm–but how awful for the family to have to relive such a devastating event!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I also picked on the word “intentional.” What about accidents? Nobody intends to hurt anyone yet the driver or homeowner or employer sued for emotional distress as a result of one is often found culpable nonetheless. Wonder what the back story is behind these decisions.

  3. JPM Said:

    I concur. This is outrageous!

    Ever since, as part of its effort to persuade the public to stop saving and instead to consume big time, the Reagan Administration took the limitations off lawyers, hospitals and doctors marketing their services, the quality, in human terms, of health care here has deteriorated.

    I’d forego all the technological advances in medicine if I could just have back the doctors who cared about what happened to me and had the time to show their concern, and the hospitals I could trust. By the way, get rid, as well, of all the hypocritical legal mumbo jumbo about patient “rights.”

    Medical professionals should stick to making us as healthy as possible, and be free from having to worry about all the other stuff like insurance, law suits, marketing, making a buck, et cetera, et cetera.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Speaking of making a buck, where do hospitals get all that money to advertise as much as they do? Why do they try to persuade patients to go to their hospital for this or that disease in the first place when patients often are kicked out as fast as possible regardless of their condition? If you have X procedure you’re out in Y days even if you have other diseases that might affect recovery. The objective is not health care but statistics–keep them in order or else.

    People are no longer patients, they are numbers. No wonder judges and the hospital itself didn’t consider this man’s feelings or that of his family–who has empathy for a number?

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    A hospital patient is not a public figure, and the hospital was way out of line putting him on exhibit. No matter who rules, judge or jury, it should be held accountable. Over and above the fact this was a blatant invasion of privacy, no public good could possibly result.

    NY Presbyterian is among the finest hospitals in the country, and person/persons responsible for this embarrassing outrage should be dismissed before they come up with another bright idea.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Like you, I don’t know what they were thinking in this or other instances. Apparently this program is popular….and it clearly costs them only the fees of a director, videographer and editor. There are no location fees nor, I suspect, do the doctors charge as the publicity must help them and if the hospital shoots without asking patients, there are no costs for this “talent” either.

    The beauty of reality TV is that it doesn’t cost the producers much. I wonder why “there but for the grace of God go I,” never crosses any of these peoples’ minds. Do they think that they and their families are immune to emergencies?

  7. Hank Goldman Said:

    Must have been an absolute horror for the family.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I would be beside myself as well as livid. To be faced by so many insouciant shrugs on the part of hospital staff, lawyers and the judges would have made me feel even worse.

  9. Lucrezia Said:

    A law suit with a huge monetary judgment against the hospital could do wonders.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    That’s just it: Because no law was broken, it’s my understanding that they can’t sue.

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