Stop the bans on cameras and video in hospital birth rooms
By Dean I Weitzman, Esq. on February 12th, 2011
Last month, a Maryland family was surprised when they weren’t allowed to take photographs or video images of the birth of their newborn daughter in a hospital delivery room until the baby had been delivered safely and permission was granted by the medical team.
Unknown to the family, the hospital had adopted rules banning all photos and videos from being taken during the birth process and even mandating that cellphones are turned off.
So why the draconian rules that forbid the family from photographing and filming the amazing moment?
The ban was brought on by a fear of medical malpractice lawsuits, according to a recent story in The New York Times.
The policy at the hospital, Meritus Medical Center in Hagerstown, Md., inspired the family to begin an online petition, which has apparently garnered hundreds of signatures seeking to overturn the ban, according to the story.
In reality, the family was quickly able to begin taking photos some 30 seconds after their daughter was born, but that didn’t satisfy them.
They were upset that they weren’t able to capture the moment of birth of their eighth child and they are now working to prevent such an occurrence for other families.
The hospital’s ban brings up a fascinating legal issue – should the concerns of hospitals and doctors outweigh the rights of families?
“For the hospital, the issue is not about ‘rights’ but about the health and safety of the baby and mother and about protecting the privacy of the medical staff, many of whom have no desire to become instant celebrities on Facebook or YouTube,” the New York Times story reported.
That, however, seems like subterfuge to us here at MyPhillyLawyer, where we do handle birth injury cases for our clients.
Doctors and surgeons are certainly not publicity shy when publicizing themselves in connection with medical advances, such as new surgical procedures and treatments and major success stories – until of course something goes wrong in a medical procedure.
Certainly, there is an obvious risk to doctors and medical staffs to having still and video cameras in a birth room – if they make a mistake or if something goes wrong, there it is preserved for everyone to see.
But that’s not enough of a reason to ban photos and videos from being taken.
In recent years, such videos and photos have been used more and more in courts across the country when something goes wrong, according to the Times story. “A typical case is one settled in 2007 that involved a baby born at the University of Illinois Hospital with shoulder complications and permanent injury; video taken by the father in the delivery room showed the nurse-midwife using excessive force and led to a payment to the family of $2.3 million,” the story said.
On the other hand, if something does go wrong, then let’s look at the benefit of having a video or photographic record – at least there is critical evidence that can be reviewed.
In that case, then there are actually benefits of having such images and video if something does go wrong – they can be important for other defendants in such a case so that only the proper parties are held responsible, clearing anyone else on a medical staff who did not have direct culpability in the event of problems with the birth.
Maybe by having cameras in birth rooms they actually can encourage medical professionals to be more careful and competent with even the most “routine” births, which could help prevent birth tragedies in the first place.
In the real world, most births don’t involve lawsuits. Most of the time, those birth images preserve happy moments and not future evidence.
That’s why such bans are overreactions to infrequent tragic incidents that can occur.
These home movie videos being taken by families of live births have been permitted and even encouraged for decades so that families can capture the moment of birth of their child.
It’s time for these kinds of bans to be overturned or not begun at all.
They’re not fair to families and they’re not making the birth process safer.