Woman 'Distraught' Over Hospital Staff's Recorded Remarks During Her Surgery

PHOTO: Ethel Easter says she remains "distraught" by comments she secretly recorded hospital staff making about her attitude and weight as they worked on her unconscious body during a 2015 operation.PlayABC News
WATCH Patient Outraged After Secretly Recording Surgeons in Operating Room

A Texas woman says she remains "distraught" by comments she secretly recorded hospital staff making about her attitude as well as her weight as they worked on her unconscious body during a 2015 operation.

"I can't even express how I feel," Ethel Easter told ABC News today.

Easter said that before her hernia operation in August 2015, she'd had an office visit with the surgeon scheduled to operate on her at Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital in Houston, Texas. She said she was very sick at the time and had panicked when the surgeon said the surgery could be done in two months.

"He started abruptly yelling at me, saying, 'Who do you think you are?'" Easter said.

Easter said she started crying and was later informed by a different doctor during another visit that the surgeon had left "bad notes" in her file. Easter said at that point, a "red flag" went up. She said she didn't want to cancel or reschedule the surgery for later, though.

"That's when I decided to record it," Easter said. "I just decided to hide [the audio-recording device] in my hair."

After the surgery, Easter said, she listened to the recording.

On the recording, hospital staff could be heard calling her a "handful" and saying that she'd threatened to call a lawyer and file a complaint. Easter said today that she'd never threatened to hire a lawyer but might have said she needed to file a complaint regarding the wait time for the surgery.

'They had no right to say those things over my body'

Easter said that the staff had made fun of her belly button and that at another point, someone had referred to her as Precious. On the recording, a hospital staff member could be heard saying, "Precious, yes. This is Precious over here, saying hi to Precious over there."

She said she believed the comment referred to the main character in a 2009 movie.

"She was an obese African-American woman who was raped by her father. ... I was distraught," she said.

When reached by ABC News, Harris Health System, which operates Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital, said it could not comment on Easter's complaint.

"Harris Health System does not have the patient's written authorization to discuss this matter, and may not do so under federal privacy laws without written permission," the hospital said in an emailed statement to ABC News.

The hospital did release a statement to ABC News that it had sent to Easter in December 2015. In the letter, Harris Health thanked Easter for sending it a copy of the recording "to better analyze your concerns regarding that recording."

"With regards to the recording, as I explained in my prior correspondence, we reminded the OR staff and physicians to be mindful of their comments at all times. After carefully listening to the recording that you provided, Harris Health does not believe further action is warranted at this time," the letter said.

Harris Health also said the physicians who'd cared for Easter were employed by UT Houston. UT Health Care system told ABC News that it could not comment due to HIPAA and patient privacy laws.

Easter said today that she had not yet decided whether to sue the hospital.

"They had no right to say those things over my body," she said. "It was unprofessional and it was wrong."

ABC News' Matt Gutman contributed to this report.

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