Debate heats up over the recording of healthcare procedures

A contentious debate is unfolding within the healthcare industry over whether hospitals should allow patients to record their surgical procedures, StatNews reports.

At Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, for example, the number of patients asking to record their surgeries, as well as stages of care such as doctors' instructions or physical therapy, has increased recently, spokesperson Jennifer Kritz told StatNews.

Advocates say the practice is good for transparency, accountability and patient safety, while its detractors are concerned it will harm patient-provider relationships and open providers to increased legal risk.

One of the most notable cases of a recorded procedure happened by accident: this year, a Virginia man was awarded $500,000 after he accidentally recorded his colonoscopy, during which his doctors both insulted him while he was unconscious and conspired on film to deliberately misdiagnose him. The patient's lawyer, Mike Charnoff, told StatNews he has received multiple calls from patients seeking to file similar lawsuits since then. But most, he said, are less likely to win so resoundingly because the comments in question are less offensive or less likely to be recorded.

Many states' laws, Massachusetts among them, prohibit recording without the consent of all involved parties, but Beth Israel Deaconess lacks a hospital-specific recording policy. To remedy this, hospital leaders have assembled a committee to develop one, with several other hospitals in the city telling the publication they already generally allow patients to record with staff consent.

Other parts of the country are exploring the idea as well; this year, a Wisconsin legislator introduced a bill requiring cameras in every operating room in the state to determine the precise cause of medical errors, the nation's third-leading cause of death. Similar bills have been introduced, but failed to pass, in both Massachusetts and Mississippi, according to the article.

The Massachusetts Medical Society told StatNews that not only does recording create a sense of distrust between provider and patient by "anticipating wrongdoing," it also raises logistical issues over potential videographer interference with the procedure, as well as the ever-present threat of the video finding its way onto social media.

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