In stepping up its surveillance after anesthesia drugs started going missing, Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa, Calif., filmed women undergoing surgery without their permission, according to a report by inewsource.
To catch whoever was taking the drugs from surgery carts, the hospital put small cameras inside monitors on portable anesthesia machines in three operating rooms inside the hospital’s women’s health center. While the strategy supposedly worked, with one physician allegedly filmed pocketing drugs, the hospital discovered it accidentally captured the surgical procedures as well.
“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,” said Duane Admire, attorney for the accused physician, Adam Dorin, MD.
Admire called the surveillance a shocking violation of patient privacy rights.
As part of the legal action between Dorin and the hospital before the California Medical Board, Admire has filed a subpoena for all of the footage from the hidden cameras, approximately 7,000 clips in all. The hospital has asked for that request to be rejected.
“I have explained the concern that it would invade the most crucial privacy rights of Sharp HealthCare and SGH’s patients, often in their most vulnerable state, under anesthesia and exposed on the operating room table,” wrote Carlislie Lewis, senior vice president and general counsel for Sharp HealthCare.
Lewis argued the only relevant sections of the footage are the 12 clips purporting to show Dorin stealing propofol off the carts. Admire says the doctor only did so for “proper patient care.”
As to whether patients were informed about the surveillance, Admire said the hospital hasn’t provided any signed consent forms from patients.
“That's our shocking problem with it, that if you ever have a reasonable expectation of privacy, it's when you're with your doctor and exposed," Admire said.
The hospital didn’t tell inewsource if patients were informed, but did say in a statement the cameras were “situated in a manner so as to limit its view to the area in front of the anesthesia cart,” and promised to fight against the release of any video of patients to Dorin’s attorney.