$2.2 Million Penalty Levied Against NY Hospital For Unauthorized Patient Filming


An agreement has been reached between NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and federal regulators which will require the hospital to pay $2.2 million in penalties for permitting television crews to capture scenes involving the treatment of two patients who had not given their consent.

One such patient was suffering serious medical distress, and the other patient died from his injuries. The filming of these individuals was allowed to continue, despite a request by an on-site medical staffer that it cease — something federal regulators have now deemed unacceptable and in violation of laws designed to protect patient privacy.

Family of deceased patient prompts federal fine

Prompting the imposition of the $2.2 million fine is the story of Mark Chanko, a New York City pedestrian who had been hit by a refuse truck back in 2011, and who was rushed to NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital for emergency treatment. At the time of his arrival, an ABC television crew was filming scenes for its reality series entitled “NY Med.” Though no consent or authorization was ever given by Mr. Chanko or his family, the crew filmed the doctors’ attempts, which were ultimately unsuccessful, to try and save the man’s life.

It was not until the following year that Mr. Chanko’s widow, a fan of the program, saw her husband’s story chronicled on the show, much to her shock and upset. Though her husband’s face had been blurred and his voice altered, his identity was unmistakable to her, and she was sent into immediate despair and agony at having to relive the events of that tragic day.

Federal regulators reinforce privacy directive

According to officials from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights, patient privacy must be placed at the forefront, and that it is not enough for media producers to simply use blurring or pixelation as a means to protect patient identity if the patients themselves never provided authorization for filming. The agency is responsible for oversight related to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and has stated that what happened at the hospital was truly egregious in that it permitted members of the media to essentially access patient health information without their consent. Office of Civil Rights Director Jocelyn Samuels stated in response to the case that hospitals and other institutions covered by the law will simply not be allowed to jeopardize the privacy of patients by letting television crews or other media entities film them absent explicit consent.

Though the settlement did not include an admission of wrongdoing or acknowledgment of HIPAA violations by the hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian did agree to initiate a revision process for all of its internal privacy policies and engage in enhanced staff training on the subject. As a condition of the settlement, the federal government will also continue compliance monitoring of the facility for a period of two years.

Implications for the future medical reality TV

Expert observers have indicated that the settlement in the Chanko matter could have significant implications for the future of reality programs set in hospital environments. Because the federal government has formally opined on the ethical nature of practices such as those seen in the NewYork-Presbyterian case, it is thought that hospital general counsels and public relations personnel will be loathe to take the risk of allowing filming of this type to happen in their facilities. Proponents of this type of programming emphasize that their purpose is to educate members of the public on the challenges and issues faced by medical professionals on a daily basis and to underscore the complex nature of emergency medicine.

Help for victims of medical misconduct & malpractice

In addition to seeking justice through their Office of Civil Rights complaint, the Chanko family is pursuing a lawsuit against the hospital and its former chief surgical resident for breaching doctor-patient confidentiality. When tragedies of this sort are compounded by ethical or medical malpractice, it is essential for victims and their families to know that help is close at hand.

With over 45 years of experience fighting for the rights of those harmed by negligence on the part of medical professionals, The Sanders Firm is committed to helping New York families through what may be the most difficult time in their lives.

If you have experienced the effects of hospital negligence or other mistreatment, we invite you to schedule a no-cost case evaluation to gain insights into your legal options. Call 1.800.FAIR.PLAY (800.324.7752). Resources

  1. New York Times, New York Hospital to Pay $2.2 Million Over Unauthorized Filming of 2 Patients, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/22/nyregion/new-york-hospital-to-pay-fine-over-unauthorized-filming-of-2-patients.html?_r=0
  2. New York Times, Dying in the E.R., and on TV Without His Family’s Consent, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/04/nyregion/dying-in-the-er-and-on-tv-without-his-familys-consent.html?_r=0