Births Secretly Filmed Amid Hospital Sting

     SAN DIEGO (CN) — A mother claims in a class action that Sharp Healthcare in San Diego took 15,000 videos of women giving birth and let security guards watch them, in an attempt to catch a single drug-stealing employee.
     Filing suit Tuesday in superior court, Melissa Escalera claims Sharp Healthcare violated thousands of women’s privacy in all three of its operating rooms at Sharp Grossmont Hospital. Her case is the Top Download today at Courthouse News.
     “Defendants recorded approximately 15,000 videos of patients in their operating rooms — all in an alleged effort to catch an employee in the act of taking a drug from the operating room cart and putting it in his pocket,” the complaint states. “Defendants retain at least 6,966 videos, after allegedly destroying some of them. In their overzealous pursuit of evidence against this employee, defendants breached the privacy rights of thousands of patients when they were at their most vulnerable.”
     She says the hospital set up hidden cameras in the Grossmont operating rooms that were triggered by motion sensors, and so recorded whenever someone was in the room. They recorded her giving birth by Caesarean section.
     The cameras were installed in July 2012 to try to catch an employee stealing propofol from drug carts in operating rooms, Escalera says. Propofol is the drug that killed Michael Jackson. Escalera says the cameras recorded 15,000 videos of at least 1,000 patients between July 2012 and June 2013.
     “These video clips show defendants’ female patients unconscious, undressed on operating room tables and undergoing medical procedures,” according to the complaint. “Because of the nature of these procedures, the videos captured women while they were emotionally and physically exposed, often naked with their most sensitive genital areas visible.”
     Inewsource.org reported on May 5 that Dr. Adam Dorin, an anesthesiologist, was caught stowing the drug in his shirt pocket. The report says Dorin’s attorney, Duane Admire, told inewsource: “Essentially, every patient who had surgery or had their baby delivered by C-section or had a tubal ligation during that time, from July 2012 to June of 2013, would have had their images taken at some point,” without their knowledge or consent.
     In a second report, on May 19, inewsource reported that the hospital “mistakenly” released some videos to attorney Admire. The hospital told inewsource in that story that it “apologized for releasing 14 video clips” of women in surgery, and said it was trying to identify all the women who were recorded, to inform them of the breach of privacy.
     That article also reported that another Grossmont anesthesiologist told a hospital that Dorin’s taking the drugs “probably wasn’t theft. ‘Anesthesia carts are unlocked and physicians often take 1-3 vials for emergencies; these are life and death situations,’ according to minutes from that meeting,” according to the May 19 article.
     Escalera seeks class certification and damages for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of confidentiality, unlawful recording of confidential information, negligent creation and maintenance of medical information, unlawful disclosure of medical information, invasion of privacy and distribution of private sexually explicit materials.
     She is represented by Allison Goddard with the Patterson Law Group, who said in an interview: “By putting a hidden camera in the operating room they’re inviting in individuals she did not consent to be there. If they had invited a security guard in his uniform and attorney in a suit to stand in the room when she was undergoing surgery she obviously wouldn’t consent to that.”
     Goddard said another client was particularly upset that her C-section may have been viewed by strangers because the hospital allowed only one other person in the room when she gave birth, so her mother was not able to see her grandchild born.
     Sharp’s Patient Rights policy states that patients have the right to “full consideration of privacy concerning their medical care program,” and the “right to be advised as to the reason for the presence of any individual,” Goddard said.
     Goddard said none of her clients have been contacted yet by Sharp. The attorney called it “amazing [that] this was allowed to occur.”
     Sharp Grossmont Hospital’s communications director Bruce Hartman said Sharp does not comment on pending litigation.

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