New York City hospitals will no longer allow reality television crews in their emergency departments. The decision came after a man was shown dying.
- The man’s family said he never gave permission to be recorded.
- Reality television crews usually record in emergency situations and ask permission afterward to use the material.
- The family filed complaints with regulators and sued the hospital, the television network, and the doctor.
After complaints by a family that New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City allowed a dying man to be videotaped for a reality television program without his permission, the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA) announced recently that emergency departments (EDs) in the city will now ban television crews.
The ABC television show NY Med, a reality show featuring real-life trauma cases at the hospital, aired video of an 83-year-old man’s last moments after being hit by a garbage truck on April 29, 2011. In addition to showing Mark Chanko as he died, the show depicted heart-wrenching conversations between his family and the treating physician.
Chanko’s face and those of his family were blurred, but his family watched the show when it was broadcast and said they could identify him. The family contends that the man never gave permission to be recorded for broadcast, and the family filed complaints with the New York State Department of Health, ABC, The Joint Commission, and the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services.
In addition, the family sued ABC, New York Presbyterian, and Chanko’s physician in the emergency department. An appellate court dismissed the case, but the family is appealing that decision.
A report from the state health department concluded that the hospital violated Chanko’s rights because he was “unaware and uninformed that he was being filmed and viewed by a camera while receiving medical treatment.”
In court filings responding to the complaint, ABC defended its actions by saying the patient was not identifiable to the public and that because NY Med is produced by the network’s news division, it is protected by the First Amendment. ABC did not claim that it had obtained permission from the patient.
The American Medical Association and other professional groups have expressed concern about patients being videotaped at a time when they might not be able to grant informed consent and the practice of recording patients first and asking permission later. Risk managers and medical ethicists have been critical of hospitals granting access to reality television crews since their inception more than 10 years ago.
Citing the Chanko case as proof that the concerns of critics were valid, the GNYHA issued a statement recently saying its member hospitals “will no longer allow patients to be filmed for entertainment without obtaining their prior written consent.” Because the television crews are unable to obtain permission in an emergency, the standard procedure has been for hospitals to allow the videotaping of patients first and then the producers ask for permission to use the footage, the hospital group noted.
“This effectively puts an end to ‘reality TV’ in New York’s emergency rooms,” the GNYHA statement concluded.