Videotaping Births Raises Legal Dilemmas

Further, some doctors and nurses may get nervous with the red light of the camera in their eyes, affecting how they administer care, Flamm added. And research shows jurors are more likely to believe and pay attention to videotaped evidence than regular testimony, which can be tedious.

But as doctors weigh their patients’ interests against their own, some are questioning the merits of banning cameras. In the wake of the Houston tragedy, a Texas state representative is crafting a bill that would bar hospitals from preventing taping.

“I would be concerned about any doctor who was concerned about being videotaped,” says Mithoff. “We are talking about life and death. The more we know, the better off we will be.”

Communication Is Key

Many hospitals, of course, still allow patients to tape births. Indeed, some hospitals are actually welcoming cameras and offer fully wired delivery suites so new parents can quickly send video of the birth to distant relatives via e-mail.

In the end, communication is the key to finding a solution that suits both doctor and patient, says Dr. Jerome Yankowitz, director of the division of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Iowa. Research shows malpractice lawsuits are less likely when doctors and patients have a good relationship and talk through issues, he said.

Yankowitz advises doctors offer consent forms to their patients who want to videotape. With their signatures, patients acknowledge they may be asked to turn off their cameras and get permission of nurses and other staff before taping them at work.

“I don’t think of it as protecting physicians,” he said. “The patient and physician are assisted with the tools to sit down and talk to each other. The biggest thing is to prevent ill will.”

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