HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Recording the Beginning of Life

Monty Python's Miracle of Birth, the opening sketch from The Meaning of Life (and an inspiration for my work), ends with a fake doctor (played by a real doctor) instructing the new mother, "So, it's lots of happy pills for you, and you can find out all about the birth when you get home. It's available on Betamax, VHS, and Super Eight."  

In 2009 a Minnesota couple live streamed the birth of their child on the Internet, available here and one Idaho hospital allows Skype video transmission to, for example, fathers serving in the military as noted here. Recently, however, a New York Times, article, Rules on Cameras in Delivery Rooms Stir Passions, has noted growing the growing reluctance of hospitals to allow cameras at all or, for example, until five minutes after the birth.

The hospitals' explicit arguments seem to be protection of the privacy of the medical staff (although, with anonymizing masks and other surgical gowns the chance of identification seem limited) and stopping the technology getting in the way of the care and treatment of mother and child (which seems fair enough until one factors in the miniaturization and low light sensitivity of the modern pocket camera). The Times article implies that provider concerns over the evidentiary power  of video recordings in the case of an adverse event is an important additional factor. 

It is hard to identify any kind of legal right in the patient that would permit cameras in the delivery room (or during any other kind of hospital-based procedure) unless, for example, the hospital was in breach of contract or, possibly, its own regulations. More likely to be the subject of litigation are cases where the hospital films or tweets a procedure (as here or fictionalized here) given the difficulty in  extracting appropriate informed consent in such scenarios (as discussed here), or where one of the parties seeks to make use of surveillance video footage. See e.g., Ykimoff v. Foote Mem. Hosp., 285 Mich.App. 80 (2009). 

Nic Terry

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