GMA: Surveillance Cameras in Nursing Homes?

ByABC News via logo
February 15, 2001, 8:44 AM

Feb. 15 -- According to the federal government, more than one out of four nursing homes are so substandard they threaten their patients' health. In some cases, elderly patients have been physically abused by the very people entrusted to care for them.

With such horrors in mind, the Maryland legislature holds hearings today on a bill that would give nursing-home residents the right to install video cameras in their rooms to detect and prevent abuse. If passed, it will be the first measure of its kind in the United States.

Maryland Delegate Susan Hecht is testifying in favor of the bill before the legislature's Environmental Matters Committee. She told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America today that she began a crusade to pass the so-called "Grannycam" bill after her mother was mistreated in a nursing home.

"My mom had kept talking about being scared and not getting good care," says Hecht. "She couldn't identify the person, the name, but I happened to walk in during the middle of the day and witnessed an abusive incident of my mother while she was in the bathroom."

Hecht says what really scares her is the idea that there is much more similar abuse that simply goes undetected.

Patients' Rights and Privacy

There are currently about 1.6 million residents living in about 17,000 nursing homes across the United States.

Politicians in Texas, Illinois and Michigan are watching to see what comes of the bill in Maryland. Efforts have been made to pass similar legislation in each of those three states.

The Maryland bill would give nursing home residents the right to install surveillance cameras in their rooms. Nursing homes would be obliged to allow such monitoring if a resident desires it and could not refuse someone admittance just because they wish to install such a camera.

The bill also proposes guidelines to safeguard the privacy of third parties: If a room is shared, the other resident must grant permission; a sign warning visitors of the video monitoring would be required; and the resident and his or her family would bear the financial cost of installing the equipment.