New York Presbyterian Hospital has reached a $2.2 million settlement with the federal government over “blatant disclosure” of patients’ health information, the Department of Health & Human Services announced Thursday. The violations occurred after the hospital canceled the ABC reality TV show “NY Med,” starring Dr. Mehmet Oz, “unfettered access to his healthcare facility.”
“This case sends an important signal to OCR [the HHS Office for Civil Rights] will not allow covered entities to compromise their patients’ privacy by allowing news or television crews to film the patients without their consent,” Jocelyn Samuels, director of OCR, said in a statement.
In addition to the hefty settlement, HHS said it will monitor the hospital for two years to ensure it properly protects the privacy of its patients.
The settlement stems from an episode of “NY Med” filmed in April 2011. Without permission, the film crew recorded the treatment and eventual death of Mark Chanko, who was hit by a garbage truck as he crossed the street near his house. The crew also secretly filmed from behind a locked door to collect the audio of doctors notifying Chanko’s family of his death.
Last year, The New York Times And ProPublic reported that Chanko’s wife was aware of the footage and audio after turning on her television one night while having trouble sleeping.
“And then I see, even with the blurry picture, you could tell it was him,” she said at the time. “You could hear his speech pattern. I hear my husband say, ‘Does my wife know I’m here?’” She watched the ensuing footage of her husband moaning in pain as his blood pressure dropped and the doctors pulled out defibrillation paddles. “I saw my husband die in front of my eyes,” she said.
The Chankos sued the hospital. The lawsuit was initially dismissed, but this month the New York Court of Appeals allowed it to move forward in a unanimous decision. The family also filed a complaint with the HHS.
The agency concluded that:
“By allowing individuals receiving emergency medical care to be filmed without their consent by members of the media, NYP’s actions blatantly violate HIPAA rules, which were specifically designed to prohibit the disclosure of a person’s PHI. to prohibit. [protected health information]including images, in circumstances like this.”
In a statement to ProPublicthe hospital said it does not believe it violated patient privacy rules.