81 Women Sue After Hospital Cameras Record Labor Procedures

Marcia Frellick

April 08, 2019

Dozens of women have filed a lawsuit against a suburban San Diego hospital whose cameras recorded their procedures in three labor and delivery rooms, according to multiple news reports.

The Women's Center at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa, a suburb of San Diego, said in a statement Thursday that the cameras were installed between July 2012 and June 2013 to catch thieves stealing from anesthesia carts.

According to NBC news, 81 women are listed as plaintiffs on the lawsuit but as many as 1800 women may have been affected. The suit was originally filed in 2016, but because it was denied class action status, it was refiled late last month with additional claims.

ABC's San Diego news affiliate reports that cameras captured the women undressing and recorded procedures including hysterectomies, cesarean deliveries, sterilizations, and dilation and curettage after miscarriages.

In an interview with NBC, lead plaintiff Jessica Lincoln said she wonders where the recordings have ended up. "Is there a video of me and my body, naked, exposed, vulnerable, floating around on the internet somewhere?"

Carla Jones says her emergency cesarean delivery was recorded. She told NBC, "I have never been so exposed in my life. I don't know who saw these videos. I don't know where they are, where they've landed, or what will happen to them."

The hospital's parent company acknowledged in a statement that although the cameras were "intended to record only individuals in front of the anesthesia carts, others, including patients and medical personnel in the operating rooms, were at times visible to the cameras and recorded without sound."

Chris Howard, president and CEO of Sharp HealthCare, said in the statement, "The videos in our possession are kept in a secured safe in our Security Department. We have provided copies of videos to third parties in response to legal processes or specific patient authorizations or requests. Our primary concern has been, and will continue to be, ensuring patient safety and quality of care. We sincerely apologize that our efforts may have caused any distress to the women who were recorded, their families, and others we serve. We can assure you this surveillance method is no longer in use."

NBC reports that the recordings were allegedly "stored on desktop computers without password protection."

Allison Goddard, lawyer for the 81 women, told the Los Angeles Times that the women first found out about the secret recordings when they were notified by Sharp HealthCare after their images had been released to a third party as part of a 2016 proceeding before the Medical Board of California involving the physicians accused in the drug thefts.

According to NBC, the lawsuit, refiled March 29 in San Diego County Superior Court, seeks unspecified damages "for invasion of privacy, unlawful recording of confidential information, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and breach of fiduciary duty."

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