Lesson for Hospitals and Health Care Providers: Photos of Shark Bite Victim

Martin Memorial too mum: Hospital staff violated privacy of shark victim, an article from the Palm Beach Post. The article highlights the impact ubiquitous mobile devices with cameras are having on our society and the potential liability risks associated with the use/misuse of these devices by health care employees.

The article indicates that various hospital employees took photos of a shark bite victim when he arrived in the emergency room. The article discusses the action taken by the hospital in response to the incident. Another article indicates that the photos were emailed to others.

This type of situation is a nightmare for hospital administration, the privacy officer and legal counsel. The effort and investigation that likely went into figuring out who took photos, where those photos went and the procedure for recapturing/removing the photos from the various sources was time consuming and expensive (both in $$ and reputation) for the hospital.

As such, this incident provides a good example for training and reeducating health care employees on patient privacy issues. Health care employees and professionals must always remember to start from a framework of protecting the health and privacy of their patients. As the use of mobile devices with cameras and social media tools becomes more ingrained in our every day lives — the ability for private information to be captured, transferred and spread in a viral fashion has become much easier. Caution must be used and this case highlights the importance of retraining staff and highlighting the importance of protecting your patient’s privacy.