Family outraged when NY Med broadcasts father's death

  1. I've never been a fan of Dr. Oz, or shows like this. Apparently, an episode of NY Med, which is hosted by the infamous Dr. Oz and shows real cases from NY Presbyterian, included a case of a man who died after being hit by a truck. His face was blurred, but the family recognized his voice. According to them, no one asked their permission to air the footage.

    For the Chankos, the episode of “NY Med” added a coda of anger to more than a year of grief. Their daughter, Pamela Chanko, 46, said seeing the specifics of her father’s injuries and his death on TV sent her spiraling back into clinical depression. “It just sent me straight back to square one,” she said.

    Kenneth Chanko, 57, Mr. Chanko’s son, filed complaints with the hospital, the New York State Department of Health, ABC, a hospital accrediting group and the United StatesDepartment of Health and Human Services’ civil rights office.


    The show had caused him “great emotional distress and psychological harm,” he wrote in a complaint to the hospital. “I had to unnecessarily relive my father’s death at your hospital a second time, while knowing that the public at large was able to — and continues to be able to — watch my father’s passing, for the purposes of what can only be described as drive-by voyeuristic ‘entertainment.’ ”


    ABC quickly removed the segment involving Mr. Chanko from its website, DVDs and future viewings (although not from the promotional blurb for the episode, which still says, “Sebastian Schubl, a Dr. McDreamy-like young trauma surgeon, tries to save the day when a critically injured pedestrian struck by a vehicle is brought to the E.R.”). In 2013, the state cited the hospital for violating Mr. Chanko’s rights.


    That was not enough for the Chankos, who sued ABC, NewYork-Presbyterian and Dr. Schubl for damages. An appellate panel recently dismissed the case, but the family has asked for that decision to be reviewed. Dr. Schubl and the hospital declined to comment for this article, citing the continuing litigation. ABC referred a reporter to Mr. Wrong’s statement.


    In court filings, the hospital and ABC do not dispute that they did not have consent from Mr. Chanko or his family, but they say the patient is not identifiable to the public. The network has asserted that because “NY Med” is produced by its news division, it is protected by the First Amendment. Lawyers for NewYork-Presbyterian have argued that the state does not recognize a common law right to privacy and that any privacy right Mr. Chanko did have ended upon his death. They say that the Chankos themselves are responsible for their loss of privacy.
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  2. 17 Comments

  3. by   icuRNmaggie
    How awful for the friends and family of that patient. I have not seen the show. Based on the information here, I hope the family is successful with the lawsuit including the damages for the emotional distress, and that this program is taken off the air.
  4. by   scaredsilly
    Quote from icuRNmaggie
    How awful for the friends and family of that patient. I have not seen the show. Based on the information here, I hope the family is successful with the lawsuit including the damages for the emotional distress, and that this program is taken off the air.
    Totally agree! Not only a violation of hipaa, but I am sure it is also a violation of privacy in broadcast laws. Unless the news is reporting criminal activity--in which case privacy laws are not an issue-- broadcasters need permission to show names or faces. The media is trying to say that they removed identifiers and therefore followed the law. They proceeded like the media always does, without regard for humanity. They get a story that they feel is a money maker and they run with it, never caring for how it is going to hurt some people. I truly hope that they get more than a slap on the wrist for this violation!!
  5. by   Rose_Queen
    I'm shocked the episode was able to be shown without family consent, unless the patient was able to consent upon arrival (doubtful, considering he died in the ER). My experience with TV shows/news has been that release forms are required of those who are shown in the tiniest little bit. For pete's sake, the nurse at my facility who had an inch of elbow showing had to sign a release- why wouldn't the patient-in-question's family have to sign a release?
  6. by   JeanettePNP
    I find this story appalling too. Especially considering the many stories I've read of nurses who posted something foolish on their Facebook page or blog and lost their jobs as a result... Even when the violation of privacy comes nowhere near broadcasting someone's final moments on national TV.
  7. by   JustBeachyNurse
    This is disgusting and appalling. Forcing this family to relive a life altering horrible tragedy on national TV AND it's still in the promos for the resident to try and say the life of a very specific victim?!?!?!!!! Sure HIPAA doesn't apply to ABC but it most definitely applies to the resident, Dr. Oz, medical team & facility. And HIPAA survives death so yes next of kin consent is required.
  8. by   joshsc
    News episodes do not have to have signed releases or blur out faces- where regular tv shows/movies/etc do. ABC's assertion is that this program is a news program. Incidentally, I've just started watching it and I think it is fantastic. And it really boosts my urge to want to be an ER nurse. Now, the real argument to me is, is this a news show or documentary? - in documentaries they would have to blur out faces and get signed releases. I contend this would be such. Not news. That's just my .o2 though.

    btw- i'm not condoning what they did. Just saying I like the show.
  9. by   Rose_Queen
    Quote from joshsc
    News episodes do not have to have signed releases or blur out faces- where regular tv shows/movies/etc do.
    Do you have a source for this? Each time the local news station followed one of our patients through surgery, each and every person (or owner of the fraction of body part) that appeared on the footage was required to sign a release.
  10. by   JeanettePNP
    I don't know the exact legal definition of news vs documentary. My understanding is that anything that happens in a public place is fair game. If you're injured on the street and a film crew captures it, there is no right to privacy. But in an ER you do have an expectation of privacy. It's not a public place. Hospitals can make a choice about who they allow in. Very, very poor judgment on the hospital's part (and they were cited for HIPAA violation, which apparently didn't have enough teeth to make them pause).
  11. by   joshsc
    Yes Jeanette. I took a course in video production years ago in college and that's exactly it. The thing is, they did blur out the person and no name was used- which would also meet a requirement of documentary. To show identifiable people (or if they suspect it's possible for an identity to be recognized , a release must be used. And the lines can get blurred easily too. For example, If one is out taking pictures on vacation of just scenes and people around them for their own use, that's ok. But if someone takes those same pictures as a photographer and uses them on their professional website and someone's face is recognizable and could appear to be OF them, they'd have to have a "model release" to post that in that manner.
  12. by   JeanettePNP
    I don't know the legalities. I know that if I or a loved one were in the hospital I wouldn't want a camera crew poking around or doctors giving them updates on my condition without my consent, even if my name and image were not used. In this case the harm to the individuals exceeds the public benefit. And while these shows may seem to be educational they are actually exploitative and using other people's trauma and tragedy for entertainment. Sickening. It's bad enough when news crews are banging on the doors of family members who've just suffered tragedy. I think it's up to us as nurses and patient advocates to raise our voices against this outrage.
  13. by   Semolina
    Here's a discussion of the lawsuit from a blog done by New York Law School (this was written in March, 2013, when the suit was filed.

    Reality TV Invades the Hospital Room - Legal As She Is Spoke

    I am neither a lawyer nor a medical professional, but I am shocked that any hospital would allow filming without informing the patient and family. It's not like these people agreed to participate and later changed their minds. They had absolutely no choice in the matter.

    This is not a new story -- the New York Daily News covered the suit when it was filed in 2013. I'm not aware of any public outcry against the TV show or the hospital -- perhaps reality TV is so much a part of life nowadays that no one cares.

    Widow sues ABC for airing footage of husband's death - NY Daily News
  14. by   Gooselady
    I've never been confronted by camera teams while on the job. I also watch these kinds of shows sometimes. If I saw a family member as this family did, I'd probably feel much the same. As if his death wasn't tragic enough, to have it on film and used as 'entertainment' would about do me in.

    It's a little insane that a nurse can be fired for sneaking a peek at not-her-patient's medical record but FOX can video you being coded as long as they fuzz out your face. Some crazy world we live in.

    I wonder how common this incident really is? It's all 'good' as long as it doesn't get personal? That is ethically unsound, in my opinion. It's always personal to someone.

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