What If Cameras Were Banned From the Delivery Room?

There’s an uproar about the use of cameras and video recorders in the delivery room and it’s not because some women who’ve just given birth are wary of seeing their disheveled, hospital-gown clad selves on Facebook.  Hospitals have begun to rethink their policies about letting people take pictures and videos in the delivery room in the wake of concerns about these being used as evidence in malpractice suits. 
Also, while parents may be eager to share the birth of a child as soon as they might with families and friends, hospitals are grappling with how, as the New York Times puts it, “to balance safety and legal protection against the desire by some new mothers to document all aspects of their lives, including the entire birth process.”

Currently there are no national standards about cameras or video recorders in the delivery room. Each hospital sets its own policies with some (like Meritus Medical Center in Hagerstown, Maryland; Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston;  Georgetown University Hospital in Washington has a similar policy.) not allowing any pictures during birth while others (St. Luke’s Hospital in Boise, Idaho) giving women the option of using Skype to connect with their husbands who may be soldiers overseas. The New York Times sums up the dilemma facing hospitals:

Many hospitals allow and even encourage recording because modern cameras, particularly those taking video, are so unobtrusive. But that same technology has introduced a wild card into a fraught scene that could shock a jury — with the mother screaming and staff responding (or not) to what may look like an emergency — all of which can be edited to misrepresent what actually took place.

In a 2007 case, video taken by the father in the delivery room served as evidence for a malpractice lawsuit. The baby was born at the University of Illinois Hospital with shoulder complications and permanent injury; the nurse-midwife was shown to have used ‘excessive force’ and the family won a settlement of $2.3 million. 

As obstetricians are sued more often than doctors and pay insurance premiums that are among the highest, the threat of lawsuits is ‘not new.’ Nonetheless, cameras in the delivery room can affect other medical staff who, knowing that they are on ‘candid camera,’ may change their own behavior. California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco does allow filming. Its chairman of obstetrics and gynecology , Dr. Elliott K. Main, notes that medical staff do ‘drills and practice’ involving the videotaping of simulated births. ‘”Where you get into trouble is where people panic or don’t know what to do next and have blank looks on their faces,”‘ Dr. Main notes.

We were still using a camera with actual film (that you had to insert in the back of the camera…..) when our son Charlie was born in 1997. My husband snapped two photos of just-born Charlie and me (rather unkempt, after almost 24 hours of labor) and they are the first I placed in Charlie’s baby album. Personally I don’t think I would have wanted photos, much less video, of the actual birth process. The whole experience is stamped clearly upon my mind; I love to look at the photos of just-born Charlie (and to laugh at myself as I, quite frankly, looked like a mess). But the image of him as a just-born baby I like the best is the one in my mind’s eye, of my first glimpse of a long-legged, black-haired and dark-eyed and shiney-damp boy being carried by the doctor.

Would you object to cameras being banned from the delivery room, or their use limited to after the birth of a baby? Have we become over-dependent on digital devices to record the most precious moments of our lives, to the point that we might overlook something important in our haste to capture it all on our edevice and upload it to share?

Photo by edenpictures.


Tom S.
.1 years ago

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Past Member 2 years ago

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jane richmond
jane richmond6 years ago

If the doctors do nothing wrong they shouldn't be concerned about malpractice!
do they fear someone will pick up the unnecessary c-section or the fact that the doctor is not the one delivering the baby but an intern. Ummm makes you think.

Diane L.
Diane L7 years ago

I have to agree with Lynda M., but Sharon Beth also makes good points. I can hardly imagine having had myself "video-taped" while giving birth. It needs to be an individual Mom's choice, and there should be options......hospitals can have rules that say, "NO", allow it IF done by a "disinterested 3rd party", or allow. If the parent opts for insisting it be done and it's against hospital rules, go elsewhere. I can hardly imagine WHY any woman going thru labor would even WANT to be video-taped, with the possible exception of sharing the process with an absentee father (such as being in the military, etc.). Photos taken later are different. I would also not want myself video-taped while having a root canal, either!

Maybe having the hospital routinely have video-cameras in the room to prevent malpractice suits later on would be an option. If the parents wanted to, they could get a copy for their own use (sharing). Aren't most operations now done with video cameras there? Just suggesting it be routine and not with a family member running around in the room with a cam-corder, getting in the way, and no possibility of the film getting in anyone else's hands.

Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman7 years ago


Erika L.
Erika L7 years ago

This is a little tricky. I can't imagine why anyone would want to film a birth instead of experiencing it together, but know that some people don't feel something really happened unless they video it.
I can see why hospitals object and there is some justification.

Petra Luna
Petra Luna7 years ago

It's up to the couple, mostly the mom, if she wants to be recorded. Why do people think this is weird? It's a techie world out there today. Porn shows worse, and some show all of the abuse and it is liked by violent viewers, and it's considered free speech. Yet child birth is considered taboo. Anyone see anything wrong? Kiddie porn is out there too. So why isn't recording a natural occurrence of birth ruled against? This should have a wider base of free speech protection, NOT a restriction. Society has it backwards.

Manuela C.
Manuela C7 years ago

I wouldn't want anyone to film me in that situation, but that's just me!

Sharon Beth L.
Sharon Beth Long7 years ago

Apart from the malpractice issue I know that as a nurse we are much less likely to cut corners if an inspector is around or if we are being recorded. Thus since we will be more careful videotaping the birth should actually decrease malpractice cases.
With regard to issues concerning the camera itself it is the same as the problem with cell phones in hospitals, apart from the possible interference with pacemakers or other equipment is the risk that people who do not consent to be phtographed will be.
The way to deal with this is to give the video camera to a security guard or nurse's aide at the door of the hospital and let him take it ot the delivery room. With regard to sanitation--the delivery room is not a completely sterile environment. Wiping off the camera with a disinfectant and a rule that the camera should not be layed down on or near sterile equipment or what we call a sterile field should suffice.
As far as the issue that the delivery is too intimate for videotaping, like videotaping a sexual act this should be the participants decision but there should be rules against broadcasting it publicly. You Tube should not accept these videos or edit them so they do not show a woman's "privates". I do agree however that it is important that someone a woman trusts should be holding her hand and saying encouraging things and that this is more important than videotaping. The videotaping must not replace labor coaching.

Sharon Beth L.
Sharon Beth Long7 years ago

With regard to Scott C. the reason a nurse midwife delivery costs about the same as a doctor's delievery is because the pay the same (over $100,000 per year) malpractice insurance and in most states although a nurse midwife can prescribe she still must be "supervised" by an MD which is why he may take a cut of the delivery fee