Last month, the National Post’s Tom Blackwell reported that a growing number of hospitals say patients and their families are secretly recording doctors and nurses. Some say it’s a symptom of the breakdown of trust being patients and their physicians. Welcome to a Cowardly New World.
The biggest examples that reported in the National Post included a video camera installed in a clock radio to secretly record doctors and nurses as they treated a patient. The footage was used as evidence regarding substandard care at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto. At Toronto’s University Health Network, a video camera was reportedly concealed inside a teddy bear. A camera concealed in a wrist watch was used to record evidence against a Calgary psychiatrist. Smart phones are also being used overtly and also surreptitiously.
I have experienced this first hand in the ER. On one occasion during a night shift, as I was about to stitch up a patient’s cut, his buddies asked if they could record me doing it. I thought it was kind of cute and innocent. The recording took place in a closed room away from other patients so there was no risk anyone else could be filmed surreptitiously.
To be clear, that example was overt. I had another patient encounter that was quite different. I remember seeing an elderly patient who came to the ER with a medical problem. Both the patient and a relative were present in the room the first time I saw him. I came into the room a second time to give the patient and the relative some test results. As I walked into the room, I noticed that a cell phone was on a chair in the room; it was seated in the middle of the seat cushion, sort of like an invited guest. I paid no further attention to it.
The relative said the patient’s daughter (a physician) and was en route the hospital to speak with me. I started to tell the patient and the relative my working diagnosis and my management plan. Suddenly, the cell phone talked! A voice emanated from the smart phone’s speaker disagreeing with me! The daughter had been surreptitiously listening in all along.