More than 80 women have filed a lawsuit against a Californian hospital for secretly recording them with hidden cameras during medical examinations—including having surgery and giving birth.
The lawsuit, which was filed by 81 patients on March 29, alleges Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa of installing hidden motion-detecting sensor cameras on drug carts in all three labor and delivery operating rooms at the women’s center between July 2012 and June 2013. When triggered, the cameras would begin recording and would continue even after motion has stopped, the complaint said (pdf).
These cameras have recorded videos of deliveries, birth complications, and other medical procedures, the complaint states. Moreover, cameras also allegedly captured patients when engaging in discussions with their doctors and medical staff, while partially robed on the operating table, or when undressing for procedures. It also said the angle and placement of the cameras caused patients’ faces to be recorded, making them identifiable.
In total, the hospital allegedly filmed about 1,800 patients during that period.
Allison Goddard, the lawyer representing the women in the case, told The New York Times that the hospital is still in possession of thousands of videos.
The cameras recorded female patients at the hospital’s Women’s Health Center as they consulted with physicians, got…
“It’s universal shock from the patients and disgust,” Goddard said. “They don’t know how their videos might be used or who may have seen them because Sharp didn’t make sure that that would be taken care of.”
The hospital responded to the allegations in a statement to The Epoch Times, saying the cameras were installed and operated in an attempt to catch people stealing drugs from their anesthesia carts.
“The three cameras were installed and operated to ensure patient safety by identifying the person or persons responsible for the removal of the drugs,” the statement said.
“Although the cameras were intended to record only individuals in front of the anesthesia carts removing drugs, others, including patients and medical personnel in the operating rooms, were at times visible to the cameras and recorded.”
The complaint also stated that in addition to breaching the women’s privacy by filming them without consent, the hospital was grossly negligent with how they maintained the recordings.
“The recordings were stored on desktop computers that could be accessed by multiple users, some without the need for a password. Sharp did not log or track who accessed the recordings, why, or when,” the plaintiff’s alleged.
The plaintiffs said the hospital has destroyed at least half of the recordings but cannot say when or how it deleted those files and cannot confirm that it took the appropriate steps to ensure the files were not recoverable.
“Computers that stored the recordings were ‘refreshed’ or replaced, and Sharp did not ensure proper deletion of recordings on those computers,” the complaint stated.
Sharp said that they “take extensive measures to protect the privacy of our patients.”
“The surveillance methods in the 2012-13 investigation were used for this particular case only and have not been used again. We sincerely regret that our efforts to ensure medication security may have caused any distress to those we serve,” the hospital said in their statement.
A class-action lawsuit regarding the recordings and privacy of the patients was filed against the hospital in 2016 and still pending, the hospital said. According to Buzzfeed, the court refused to certify the class—a process to combine multiple similar lawsuits together so that it proceeds as part of one larger case.
Moreover, the court also denied the hospital’s motion for summary judgment. As a result, 81 women decided to refile the case last week. More women are expected to join the lawsuit, according to Goddard.