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NYC Hospital To Pay $2.2 Million For Allowing Reality TV Show To Film Patients Without Consent

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Reality television can get interesting at times because of its "unadulterated" form and tendency to show real, unscripted reactions from real people. However, not everyone wants to be a part of reality TV and that is what a hospital in New York has learned.

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR), under the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), announced on April 21 that the New York Presbyterian has agreed to undergo a corrective action plan as well as pay a $2.2 million settlement after a DHHS probe proved that it allowed an ABC camera crew to film two health cases without the patients' consent.

The filming happened in April 2011 and was broadcast in the ABC show NY Med in 2012, with new episodes in 2014.

According to the OCR, the office received a complaint from the son of one of the patients in 2013 after his mother, the widow of a dying patient whose face was blurred, was able to immediately identify her suffering husband in the NY Med segment. Of course, this caused distress to the family because neither the hospital nor the film crew requested for permission to film the ordeal.

"[Even] with the blurred picture, you could tell it was him [...] I hear my husband say, 'Does my wife know I'm here?' [...] I hear them saying, 'OK, are you ready to pronounce him?'[...] I saw my husband die before my eyes," Anita Chanko, the man's widow, described the moment she saw her husband on TV in 2012, on one sleepless night she spent watching NY Med.

"This case sends an important message that OCR will not permit covered entities to compromise their patients' privacy by allowing news or television crews to film the patients without their authorization [...] We take seriously all complaints filed by individuals, and will seek the necessary remedies to ensure that patients' privacy is fully protected," OCR Director Jocelyn Samuels expressed.

The New York Presbyterian still maintains that it did not violate any of the Federal rules governing hospitals but it will pay the $2.2 million settlement and abide by the Resolution Agreement.

That is not to say that hospitals will no longer be allowed to participate in television. The most important part of the rules is that both hospital and film crews should ensure that consent was given by the patient before any filming begins.

Of course, live streaming medical procedures for the sake of educating students is probably not an exception.

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