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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Genitals photographed, shared by UPMC hospital employees: a common violation in health care industry

David Wenner
The Patriot News/PennLive.com
Updated September 16, 2017

You might assume anyone in healthcare would know better. Smart phones aren't new. Health care providers have long wrestled with the patient privacy- and medical ethics-related ramifications. Yet once again, smart phones have contributed to a very public black eye for a health care provider.

UPMC Bedford in Everett, Pa. has been cited by the Pennsylvania Department of Health after employees snapped and shared photos and video of an unconscious patient who needed surgery to remove an object from a genital. Numerous employees, including two doctors, were disciplined for being present.

It's not the first time unauthorized photos were taken of a hospital patient and shared or posted on social media.

  • Last year, a nurse in New York lost her license after taking a smart phone photo of an unconscious patient's penis and sending it to some of her co-workers. She also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor criminal charges.
  • The Los Angeles Times in 2013 wrote about an anesthesiologist in California who put a sticker of a mustache on the face of an unconscious female patient, with a nurse's aid then taking a picture. That article also reported allegations of a medical device salesman taking photos of a naked woman without her knowledge.
  • In 2010, employees at a hospital in Florida were disciplined after taking and posting online photos of a shark attack victim who didn't survive. No one was fired, with the hospital concluding the incident was the "result of poor judgement rather than malicious intent," according to an article in Radiology Today. 
  • Many such incidents have involved nursing homes. An article published by the American Association of Nurse Assessment Coordination in 2016 stated, "In the shadow of the social media revolution, a disturbing trend has begun to emerge of [nursing home] employees posting and sharing degrading images of their residents on social media." An investigation published by ProPublica in 2015 detailed 47 cases since 2012 of workers at nursing homes and assisted living facilities sharing photos or videos of residents on Facebook. 

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