New York Presbyterian Hospital has agreed to a $2.2 million settlement with the federal government over the “egregious disclosure” of patients’ health information, the Department of Health & Human Services announced Thursday. The violations occurred after the hospital gave the ABC reality TV show, “NY Med,” starring Dr. Mehmet Oz, “unfettered access to its healthcare facility.”
“This case sends an important message that OCR [the HHS Office for Civil Rights] will not permit covered entities to compromise their patients’ privacy by allowing news or television crews to film the patients without their authorization,” Jocelyn Samuels, OCR’s director, said in a statement.
In addition to the hefty settlement, HHS added that it will monitor the hospital for two years to ensure that it is protecting its patients' privacy appropriately.
The settlement stems from an episode of “NY Med” filmed in April of 2011. Without consent, the film crew recorded the treatment and ultimate death of Mark Chanko, who had been struck by a garbage truck while crossing the street near his home. The crew also surreptitiously filmed from behind a closed door to collect the audio of doctors informing Chanko's family of his death.
Last year, The New York Times and ProPublica reported that Chanko’s wife learned of the footage and audio after flipping on her television one night while she was having trouble sleeping.
“And then I see, even with the blurred picture, you could tell it was him,” she said at the time. “You could hear his speech pattern. I hear my husband say, ‘Does my wife know I’m here?’” She watched the subsequent footage of her husband moaning in pain as his blood pressure falls and the doctors get out defibrillation paddles. “I saw my husband die before my eyes,” she said.
The Chankos sued the hospital. The suit was initially dismissed, but this month the New York Court of Appeals allowed it to proceed in a unanimous decision. The family also filed a complaint with the HHS.