Moms-to-be upset over no-photo during delivery policy

December 27, 2010|BY TIFFANY ARNOLD |
  • Laurie Shifler, left, and Amber Madigan talk about the new policy for cameras in the delivery room at Meritus Medical Center. The expectant moms plan to deliver at Meritus Medical Center.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Pregnant with her eighth child, photographer Laurie Shifler assumed her family would be able to film her child’s birth in its entirety.
“It’s very overwhelming when they place that baby on your chest and you see this child who’s your own flesh and blood,” Shifler said. “Who wouldn’t want that first look at your child? Those are special memories. I’ve had it with seven of my children and I want it with my eighth.”
But because of a new policy, Shifler and other moms due to deliver at Meritus Medical Center might not get the chance.
Families are no longer allowed to film or photograph baby deliveries in their entirety at Meritus, the new site of Washington County Hospital.
 Instead, families must wait five minutes after the delivery before taking photos or filming in the birthing area once they are given the OK to do so from medical staff.
The policy went into effect    Nov. 1, before the new hospital opened.
“Our concern is for mom’s safety and privacy,” said Jody Bishop, administrative director of Women and Children’s, the department that oversees the hospital’s birthing center. “We don’t want the staff to be distracted by people video taping or taking pictures during the birth.”
Bishop said the minutes after the birth are an important time to stabilize the baby and ensure well-being of the mother.
“Five minutes after the birth, if everybody’s well and the physician approves, they can go ahead and start videotaping and taking pictures,” Bishop said.
Nearly 2,000 babies are delivered at Washington County Hospital a year. Bishop said she was unaware of prior incidents in which the presence of cameras in the hospital’s delivery room had posed safety problems.  
She said the hospital implemented the new policy to be in line with national standards.
Technology has made it easier to instantly capture and broadcast everything from yesterday’s lunch to junior’s first breath — prompting many hospitals and doctors nationwide to curb the use of cameras in the delivery room.
Also, this isn’t necessarily footage all moms want to see. Moms who tweeted while delivering or posted live-streaming video of the births online have faced backlash from other moms who thought they were sensationalizing private family moments.
But then, there are families who simply want to capture the delivery for family members who can’t be there in person.
Amber Madigan, who is pregnant with her first child, said she decided she wanted to film her own delivery after watching a video of her sister-in-law having a natural delivery.
“I knew without a doubt that every ounce of pain, everything she went through was completely, 100 percent worth it,” said Madigan, a school teacher who lives in Cascade. “There was just this angelic glow as she looked at her baby. It was the same look of unconditional love. Very similar to when my husband looked at me when I was walking down the aisle.”
In theory, a no-camera policy makes it harder for hospital employees to violate federal law by snapping photos of patients, said Rachel Seeger, spokeswoman for the U.S. office of Civil Rights. The federal agency enforces the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, the health privacy law known as HIPAA.
But a hospital is not in violation of privacy laws if a patient’s friends or family members are snapping photos.
“Because we live in a very litigious society,” Seeger said, “hospitals may, outside of the scope of HIPAA, choose to implement policies and procedures that would prohibit or limit the ability of a patient to use a video device or camera in an emergency, labor-delivery setting or in the hospital.”
It is the reason camera policies differ from hospital from hospital.
Teresa McCabe, spokeswoman for West Virginia University Hosptials East in Martinsburg, W.Va., said photography and videotaping is allowed during the entire delivery process, with the exception of invasive procedures such as a C-section, for patients who have signed the proper forms.
Karlee Brown, spokeswoman for Summit Health, which oversees Chambersburg and Waynesboro Hospitals in Pennsylvania, said patients are allowed to record and to photograph deliveries in their entirety.
Brown and McCabe said hospital staff have the option to stop the photography or videotaping at any time. It is against both hospital’s policies for visitors to photograph or videotape other patients.
Health officials at Meritus would not comment on any specific privacy or legal concerns.
On the state level, there isn’t a broad set of guidelines for hospitals to follow regarding camera policies beyond privacy rules outlined in HIPAA, said Jim Reiter, spokesman for the Maryland Hospital Association, an independent organization of hospitals and long-term care facilities.
Maryland Hospital Association does have an official stance whether patients should be permitted to photograph loved ones in the hospital.
“Our stance basically is patient privacy,” Reiter said, “but how hospitals enforce that is done hospital by hospital.”
Similar was true for its parent group, the American Hospital Association, a national organization with more than 40,000 care providers and individual members.
“It’s a hospital-by-hospital basis,” said Marie Watteau, spokeswoman with AHA. “But what we recommend to patients is to consult with their doctors in advance of going to the hospital to see what the doctor feels comfortable with.”
Shifler was unhappy with the new Meritus’ policy.
She said she wanted to capture the “miracle of birth” in its entirety because it’s a family memento, not because it could be evidence of possible wrongdoing.
“You can’t get back those first moments,” said Shifler, who lives in Cascade. “There’s no redo.”
Her husband, Michael Shifler, a police officer, and teenage son James have shared filming and photo duties. Michael Shifler said he thinks families should be given a choice.
“I don’t want the policy to exist,” Michael Shifler said. “I want people to be able to capture all that they can, not relinquish it. It’s absolutely something that can’t be replaced. It’s an awesome moment, a picture that can’t be replaced.”

The Herald-Mail Articles