A California Hospital Secretly Recorded 1,800 Women During Gynecological Surgeries

The relationship between a doctor and a patient requires trust; trust that your doctor knows what they’re doing, has your best interests at heart and wouldn’t do anything to harm you. That trust is particularly important during a person’s most vulnerable moments, like delivering a baby or undergoing a hysterectomy.

For 1,800 San Diego women, this trust was shattered when they discovered they’d been recorded in the operating room during their gynecological procedures. For roughly one year between 2012 and 2013, hidden cameras in three gynecology operating rooms in Sharp Grossmont Hospital secretly recorded women before, during and after births, miscarriages, hysterectomies, sterilizations and other medical procedures.

The videos captured the women’s faces and recorded them undressing.

Eighty-one of the women are suing the hospital in a class-action lawsuit, according to a complaint filed in the California Supreme Court.

“It’s such a shocking breach of patient privacy,” the attorney representing the women, Allison Goddard, told BuzzFeed News. “I’ve talked to hundreds of women who were affected by it. The response is nearly universal: They just can’t believe it happened.”

A similar lawsuit against the hospital was filed in 2016, but the court denied its class certification so the plaintiffs have filed again and, according to Goddard, are expecting more women to join. The suit claims that not only did the hospital violate patients’ privacy but that they were “grossly negligent” in storing the recordings. They stored the videos on desktop computers—not all of which were password-protected—and did not track who accessed the recordings or when.

There’s no way to know that an unethical hospital employee didn’t privately save or distribute the recordings or that only doctors on staff viewed them.

It’s not only an issue that the women in these videos were physically exposed, they were emotionally vulnerable as well. These videos captured some of the happiest and most tragic moments of these patient’s lives, without their permission.

“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,” Melissa Escalera, told NBC San Diego. Escalera was secretly filmed while her daughter was delivered by emergency C-section. “I would have never agreed to be recorded in that vulnerable moment.”

According to hospital spokesperson John Cihomsky, the motion-sensing laptop cameras were installed on anesthesia carts as part of an investigation into a “drug theft issue.”

“The purpose of the three cameras was to ensure patient safety by determining the cause of drugs missing from the carts,” said Cihomsky.

The cameras seem to have created an issue of their own.

Related at Care2

Photo via Getty Images

74 comments

Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson2 days ago

This is horrific. I wish I could be more surprised, though.

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Jennifer H
Jennifer H9 days ago

OMG Seriously? Drugs missing from carts is their "justification". How 'bout try again by admitting they are perverts. What an invasion of privacy.

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Martha P
Martha P18 days ago

Thanks

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Janis K
Janis K26 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Izorie Irvin
Izorie Irvin27 days ago

Thank U 4 sharing, Karen H placed some very interesting points and a few questions that we the people want too be answered...

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Leo C
Leo Custer27 days ago

thank you for sharing!

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Colin C
Colin Clauscenabout a month ago

Unintended consequences but the hospital should have told patients they were being taped.

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Diane E
Diane Eabout a month ago

Shocking breach of trust.

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Karen H
Karen Habout a month ago

If there are drug thefts, I'll bet it's hospital staff doing it and not a woman having a miscarriage, so the excuse should make any judge fall off the bench laughing. Where would an anesthetized woman undergoing surgery hide stolen drugs? If she's giving birth, would she have the baby hold the drugs? Get real!
Question - were MALE patients filmed while they were under anesthesia to make sure they weren't stealing drugs?

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Coo R
Coo Rabout a month ago

good luck to them

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