Bioethics Blogs

Putting Patients Before Publicity

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

Imagine if 5 million people learned about your hospital in a week. Would you want your hospital to be featured in a television reality show? Described as “unscripted authentic medical dramas,” such shows follow trauma cases from accident to emergency room. Over 2 seasons, NYMed followed stories at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Lutheran Medical Center, University Hospital (NJ), and St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital. Similar shows include Hopkins, Boston Med, Save My Life: Boston Trauma and Boston EMS. The idea behind these productions was to be a real-life counterpart to successful scripted medical shows like Grey’s Anatomy.

One episode in the last season of NYMed featured the story of Mark Chanko who died after being struck by a truck when he was crossing the street. He was seen at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center during the time of taping. The family was brought into a room and told the bad news. Sixteen months later, the patient’s wife is watching TV and finds an episode of NYMed that featured her husband. Although his face was blurred, she could tell it was him. The rub is that no one in the family ever consented for his story to be broadcast. The family filed complaints with the New York State Department of Health, ABC, USDHHS and other agencies. They also sued ABC, the hospital, and the chief resident for damages. The appellate court dismissed the case a year ago. ABC said because their news division produces the show, they are protected under the First Amendment.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.