New York Hospital to Pay $2.2 Million Fine for Allowing Filming of Patients Without Consent

Federal action could spell the end of emergency room reality television


NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital has agreed to pay a $2.2 million penalty to federal regulators for allowing television crews to film two patients without their consent 2013 one who was dying, the other in significant distress. Regulators said Thursday that the hospital allowed filming to continue even after a medical professional asked that it stop.


At the same time, regulators clarified the rules regarding the filming of patients, prohibiting health providers from inviting crews into treatment areas without permission from all patients who are present. That could end popular television shows that capture emergencies and traumas in progress, only getting permission from patients afterward.


"It is not sufficient for a health care provider to request or require media personnel to mask the identities of patients (using techniques such as blurring, pixelation, or voice alteration software) for whom an authorization was not obtained," the Office for Civil Rights within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in an online post.


The Office for Civil Rights oversees the federal patient privacy law known as HIPAA. Privacy rules for enforcing the law do not allow media access to patients' health information without authorization, the post said.


Joel Geiderman, co-chair of the emergency medicine department at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and chairman of the ethics committee of the American College of Emergency Physicians, said the decision may finally end real-life shows taped in hospitals.


"I think this will have a chilling effect on hospitals going forward," he said. "Any hospital legal counsel worth his salt or any PR director would be committing malpractice in order to allow it to occur. It's now embodied in a federal directive."


The federal fine involves the case of Mark Chanko, who was hit by a garbage truck in 2011 and taken to NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. A crew from ABC's hit show NY Med filmed as doctors unsuccessfully sought to save his life. Chanko's widow, Anita, recognized her husband while watching the show the following year, though his face was blurred and his voice was muffled.


The family's story was chronicled last year by ProPublica, in collaboration with the New York Times. Chanko filed a complaint in January 2013, but it took more than three years to resolve.

The Office for Civil Rights called the disclosures "egregious." It did not identify the patients by name.


"This case sends an important message that OCR will not permit covered entities to compromise their patients' privacy by allowing news or television crews to film the patients without their authorization," said Jocelyn Samuels, the office's director, in a written statement.


Chanko's son, Kenneth, said the family was "very grateful, happy, relieved" by the news. "I'm almost at a loss of words because we're just so grateful that action was taken and this will have a national impact on hospitals," he said.


In resolving the case, NewYork-Presbyterian did not admit wrongdoing or that it violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. In addition to paying the fine, it agreed to update its privacy policies and provide additional training to staff. The government will monitor its compliance for the next two years.


In a statement, the hospital said it does not believe it violated HIPAA's privacy rules.


"Our participation in the ABC News documentary program NY Med was intended to educate the public and provide insight into the complexities of medical care and the daily challenges faced by our dedicated and compassionate medical professionals," the statement said. "This program, and the others that preceded it, garnered critical acclaim, and raised the public's consciousness of important public health issues, including organ transplantation and donation. It also vividly depicted how our emergency department medical team works tirelessly every day to save patients' lives."


Earlier this month, New York's highest court revived a lawsuit filed by the Chanko family.

In a unanimous decision, with one justice not taking part, the New York Court of Appeals allowed the suit to proceed against NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and its former chief surgical resident Sebastian Schubl. The suit alleges breach of the doctor-patient confidentiality owed to Chanko.


But the high court did not allow the family to pursue its claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress against the hospital, doctor and ABC, which aired "NY Med."The conduct alleged, while "offensive," was not outrageous enough to justify damages on that count, the judges found.


Legislation has been proposed by New York lawmakers that would make it a crime to film patients without consent (with certain exceptions). And last summer, the trade group representing hospitals in New York City said its members would voluntarily agree to allow filming of their patients only with prior consent.


ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.











US Government Finally Forgives Billions in Debt of Students Who’ve Become Disabled

The move comes after a ProPublica investigation that documented how the government was making it hard for disabled borrowers to get their loans forgiven


The federal Department of Education said on Tuesday it would offer to write off $7.7 billion of student debt owed by disabled individuals, taking a big step to streamline a loan forgiveness program long plagued by bureaucratic delay and inefficiency.


Starting April 18, loan forgiveness letters will go out to approximately 387,000 borrowers who have been identified as totally and permanently disabled by the Social Security Administration, allowing them to sign and file a simplified application form to have their debt forgiven.


The move was enabled by changes in the department's regulations governing the loan forgiveness program, which resulted from a 2011 ProPublica investigation published in partnership with Columbia's Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism and the Center for Public Integrity.


Under federal law, borrowers who develop severe and lasting disabilities after taking out federal student loans are entitled to have their debts forgiven. As we noted in our investigation, the purpose of the rule was to spare former students who become disabled from a lifetime of ruined credit, garnished Social Security benefits, and spiraling debt.


But the investigation found that borrowers who become disabled faced such a high hurdle for proving their disability to the department 2014 and obstacles such as unclear rejection letters and lack of medical standards for proving disability 2014 that many simply gave up.


In one case, a borrower in a vegetative state was placed into default for failing to provide the department with income verification, according to an internal Department of Education Ombudsman Report that outlined problems with the program.


In another case documented in our February 2011 story, Tina Brooks, a former policewoman who had been severely injured during a training accident, could not get her $43,000 of student debt forgiven despite the fact that a Social Security judge had ruled she was fully disabled.


Internal reports showed the ombudsman had twice warned that the loan forgiveness program was flawed and needed to be reformed. But the Department of Education had ignored calls for reform from within and outside the agency.


That began to change after the story ran. Within a few weeks, the department forgave Brooks' student debt. The following year it proposed reforms which took effect in 2013 and allowed the Department to use the Social Security Administration's disability designation to qualify applicants for loan discharge.


That key reform is now enabling what the department hopes will be a "streamlined and more accurate process" for proactively identifying applicants who are eligible for student loan discharge, according to a statement.


"Too many eligible borrowers were falling through the cracks, unaware they were eligible for relief," said Education Undersecretary Ted Mitchell in a statement regarding the decision.

"Under the new process, we will notify potentially eligible borrowers about the benefit and guide them through steps needed to discharge their loans, helping thousands of borrowers. Americans with disabilities have a right to student loan relief," Mitchell said.


ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.







Stephen Hawking, Russian billionaire to build interstellar spaceships

Hawking and Milner made the joint announcement at a press conference held at One World Observatory in New York City on Tuesday, Xinhua reported


World-renowned British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking on Tuesday teamed up with Russian billionaire Yuri Milner and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in a $100 million effort to make tiny spaceships capable of interstellar space travel.
Hawking and Milner made the joint announcement at a press conference held at One World Observatory in New York City on Tuesday, Xinhua reported.
The project, dubbed "Breakthrough Starshot," is a research and engineering programme that aims to build laser beam propelled "nanocrafts" that can travel at 20 percent of lightspeed -- more than 1,000 times faster than current fastest spacecraft.
According to Milner, once the "nanocrafts" are built, they could reach Alpha Centauri, a star 4.37 light-years away, approximately 20 years in a fly-by mission.
Alpha Centauri is one of the closest star systems to the solar system and the current fastest spacecraft would have to spend 30,000 years to get there.
The "nanocrafts" are gram-scale robotic spacecrafts consisting of two main parts: a computer CPU sized "StarChip" and a "Lightsail" made with metamaterials no more than a few hundred atoms thick.
Although weighing just a few grams, the "StarChip" is a fully functional space probe, which carries various equipment including cameras, navigation and communication.
"The 'StarChip' can be mass-produced at the cost of an iPhone," Milner said.
The "nanocrafts" can then be propelled into space by a powerful laser beam, which according to Avi Loeb, a theoretical physicist and panelist at the news conference, will carry a power of 100 gigawatt.
"This is the power needed to lift off a space shuttle," Loeb said.
Milner and the scientists believe that with the rising power and falling costs of lasers, the entire process is practical within a couple of years.
"Fifteen years ago, it would not have made sense to make this investment. Now we have looked at the numbers, and it does," Milner said.
The project was part of the Breakthrough Initiatives first launched in July 2015 by Hawking and Milner, including a series of research plans to scan the 100 galaxies closest to the Milky Way in search for aliens. "Starshot" is its newest endeavor.
Hawking believes that human's innate sense to transcend limits is the driving force behind the project. "Gravity pins us to the ground, but I just flew to America."
While one cannot hear the joking tone through Hawking's voice synthesizer, his humour had been easily received.
What the scientists are looking for is not just reaching Alpha Centauri, but what can be learned during the efforts.
"A lot of science will be learned by the process of going through this, making this happen," said panelist Mae Jemison, a former NASA astronaut. 
"There is big task ahead, there's a big leap in getting something of a micro size to go at some percentage of the speed of light. That will have all kinds of reverberations."
Tuesday also marked the 55th anniversary of the first human space flight by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.


"Today we commit to this next great leap into the cosmos because we are human and our nature is to fly," Hawking said.
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.


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