A former patient has sued San Diego, Calif.-based Sharp HealthCare for allegedly violating her and other patients' privacy after one of its hospitals filmed more than 1,800 surgical procedures including births without patient consent.
Amber Snodgrass underwent a caesarean section at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa, Calif., in December 2012. She claims she was secretly recorded based on a public statement Sharp HealthCare CEO Chris Howard made in which he admits patients who underwent treatment at Sharp Grossmont's Women's Health Center from July 2012 to June 2013 were filmed without their knowledge.
This is the third lawsuit filed against Sharp HealthCare since 2016 alleging similar claims, one of which includes about 80 women. Snodgrass' suit, filed in the U.S. District Court of Southern California, seeks to represent a class of patients who experienced the alleged privacy violation.
A Sharp HealthCare spokesman declined to comment beyond Howard's statement because the case is active.
Sharp Grossmont Hospital installed cameras in the three operating rooms of its Women's Health Center in July 2012, claiming it was done to try to catch a doctor suspected of stealing drugs. The cameras were meant only to record the individuals near the anesthesia cart, but patients and medical personnel can also be seen in the videos, Howard said in the statement.
The procedures recorded include C-sections, hysterectomies and birth complications. The cameras were motion activated and installed inside computer monitors. More than 6,966 video clips were recorded over the 11-month period, according to the lawsuit.
In addition to filming patients without their consent, the lawsuit alleges Sharp saved the video clips on computers available to many people, some without password protection.
The existence of the videos came to light after the Medical Board of California began an investigation of the suspected physician in 2015, the lawsuit alleges. The physician subpoenaed the hospital for access to the recordings but Sharp declined in the interest of protecting patient privacy. Howard said the physician no longer works at Sharp HealthCare and the recordings ended in June 2013.
"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, and we have made changes in our protocols to ensure this situation is not repeated," Howard said in the statement.