NY bill takes patient privacy to the next level after reality TV show flak

New York lawmakers want to impose stricter patient privacy protections in the wake of a January report that a reality TV show depicted the death of a man in a city hospital emergency room without asking the patient's family for permission.

A proposed bill in the New York State Assembly would make it a felony to film patients receiving medical treatment without prior consent.

State Assemblyman Edward C. Braunstein (D-Bayside) decided to file the bill when he read a January article in ProPublica that revealed that NY Med, a reality show on ABC, filmed and broadcast the last moments of Mark Chanko's life without permission from Chanko or his family. Chanko's face was blurred and his voice digitally altered, yet his widow recognized him immediately when the show aired in August 2012.

"You can imagine what the family went through when they witnessed their loved one dying on TV," Braunstein told the Pacific Standard.

New York regulators did not impose any sanctions on the hospital for the incident, and the Chankos' lawsuit against ABC and NewYork-Presbyterian was dismissed in November. But the family now wants the decision reviewed, the Pacific Standard reported. 

Braunstein decided to take the matter into his own hands by proposing the bill to further protect patients' privacy rights. "In the future, if someone is going to be filming medical treatment, you have to get a sign-off from the patient or the patient's power of attorney or healthcare proxy," he said in the article.

The reality TV controversy wasn't the first time NewYork-Presbyterian had issues with patient privacy. Last July a nurse was fired for posting a photo of an empty trauma ward to Instagram with the caption "#Man vs 6train," after treating a man hit by a subway train, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

Braunstein told the Pacific Standard he plans to amend the bill to allow filming for legitimate reasons, such as security and education. He also wants the legislation to allow patients and their families the right to sue for damages.

To learn more:
- read the Pacific Standard article
- check out the bill