For years, expecting parents have been celebrating one of the most joyous occasions in life, the birth of a child, by taking pictures and video before, after, and often during the delivery. But recently many patients and their families have been surprised to learn that the hospital where the delivery is taking place has denied them the ability to preserve these moments by banning the use of still cameras, video cameras or both in the delivery room. This trend is the subject of a recent New York Times article, which also describes efforts by patients to fight back, including at least one instance of a community organizing a petition to have the local hospital reverse its new rule banning pictures and videos until after the baby is born.
Banning cameras makes no sense from the standpoint of patient safety and preventing medical errors and birth injuries. In fact, an argument could be made that a hospital could improve patient safety and reduce birth injuries by recording all deliveries, because knowing everything is recorded would provide the hospital staff with extra incentive to follow the rules, avoid cutting corners and maintain the proper standard of care. It would also give patients the peace of mind to know that the hospital has nothing to hide. In fact, the same New York Times article points out that a number of hospitals recognize that cameras in the delivery room are not a threat to patient safety and welcome or even encourage the practice.
So if some hospitals think cameras in the delivery room are fine, why are others choosing to ban cameras? Because they, or more precisely their insurance companies, know that sometimes the hospital staff breaks the safety rules, sometimes corners are cut and the standard of care is not met. When that happens patient safety is compromised, and the insurance company would rather get rid of any evidence of the hospital’s wrongdoing. Banning cameras provides another benefit to the insurance industry because it allows them to blame the ban on “frivolous” lawsuits, furthering the myth that there is a lawsuit crisis threatening doctors and hospitals. Meanwhile medical errors continue and patients are harmed.
If your local hospital tells you that you cannot use your camera in the delivery room, ask yourself whether the hospital is putting the safety of its patients ahead of its own self-interest, and ask the hospital: what do you have to hide?