Family members of nursing home patients are increasingly placing hidden cameras in loved ones’ rooms to evaluate the quality of care they receive. These recordings have uncovered nursing home negligence and abusive behavior by nursing home staff, which has led to at least three states passing legislation expressly permitting such monitoring, yet at the same time raising issues regarding privacy rights and liability.
According to a New York Times report, Oklahoma is the most recent state to allow video monitoring in nursing care facilities after a secretly placed camera revealed the shocking abuse of a 96-year-old woman suffering from dementia. Family members hid a camera in her room after several personal items went missing. Instead of catching a thief, the video exposed two aides stuffing latex gloves into the woman’s mouth, taunting her, tapping her on the head while laughing, and flinging her from her wheelchair onto her bed. The patient died shortly after the footage was recorded. After their misconduct was exposed, one of the aides pled guilty to abuse and neglect and the other is alleged to have fled the country.
Proponents of secret recordings argue that the use of hidden cameras is the only way loved ones can determine what is actually going on inside the facility – particularly useful given that nursing home malpractice and abuse complaints filed with government agencies are often dismissed. Authorities in states including Ohio and New York have used hidden cameras for years to uncover and prosecute these cases, and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine ordered that cameras be placed in a number of state facilities, exposing grievous misconduct that resulted in the shutdown of at least one facility.
Opponents of the recordings include workers, unions, and facility administrators who argue that filming is an invasion of the patient’s privacy. More problematic are situations where filming involves a resident with a roommate or visitors that have the right to refuse to be recorded. While openly displayed signs advising the public about the use of videotaping may address those concerns, Mr. DeWine and others believe that hidden surveillance deters nursing home negligence and abuse, and that giving notice defeats the purpose.
Sommers Schwartz attorneys have successfully represented nursing home residents in cases of abuse and neglect. If you or someone you care about has been injured at the hands of nursing home staff, please call us today – we’re here to help.