A woman who was secretly recording while giving birth by emergency caesarean section in September 2012 at Sharp Grossmont has filed a claim against the hospital for what she alleges is a "systemic and shocking breach" of her patient privacy rights.
The issue was initially uncovered by our media partner, inewsource.org.
Patient Melissa Escalera's claim says the hospital recorded approximately 15,000 videos of patients during surgery. It then turned some of the video over to other people, including attorneys and security guards, according to the claim.
Escalera told NBC 7, her 3-year-old daughter was born under emergency circumstances. Her water broke and her baby presented in a breech condition.
"When I arrived in an ambulance and was wheeled into the operating room on a gurney, my concern was with my daughter who was in distress, and coming 6 weeks early," Escalera said. "I was not planning on having a baby that September 4th day. It was a highly stressful and emotional time for my family and my doctor. No one ever asked me to record one of my most tender, life-changing moments. I would have never agreed to be recorded in that vulnerable moment."
"These video clips show Defendants' female patients unconscious, undressed on operating room tables and undergoing medical procedures," the claim states. "Because of the nature of these procedures, the video captured women while they were emotionally and physically exposed, often naked with their most genital areas visible."
The hospital did not immediately respond to request for comment about the claim being filed in San Diego Superior Court on Tuesday. For a prior story, the hospital declined an interview request, but said via a written statement that it is “very sorry that this error occurred and that the privacy of these patients was breached.”
The hospital also indicated patients consented to the video recordings through a generic patient admissions agreement since the issue involved patient safety.
"Like many U.S. hospitals, Sharp's Admission Agreement for Inpatient and Outpatient Services, which is given to each patient allows for the taking of photographs and videos of medical treatment for scientific, education, quality improvement, safety, identification or research purposes, at the discretion of the hospital and your caregivers and as permitted by law."
Numerous lawyers not involved in the case told NBC 7, the agreement doesn't circumvent the patients' constitutional rights to privacy.
The class-action claim does not specify a requested amount for damages nor name any other plaintiffs.
"Triggered by motion-detecting sensors, these cameras began recording events in these operating rooms whenever any person entered the room," the claim states. "These videos captured images of caesarean births, birth complications, dilation and curettage to resolve miscarriages, hysterectomies and sterilization procedures. Patients were undressed, exposed and at their most vulnerable during these procedures," the claim states.