Should Cameras Be Allowed In Hospital Delivery Rooms?
CASCADE, Md. — When Laurie Shifler was expecting her eighth child, she was so upset about a local hospital’s new policy restricting photographs of births that she started an online petition. Hundreds of people, near and far, signed it, many expressing outrage that a hospital would prevent parents from recording such a momentous occasion, one that could never be recaptured.
The hospital, Meritus Medical Center, in nearby Hagerstown, bars all pictures and videos during birth — cellphones and cameras must be turned off — and allows picture-taking to begin only after the medical team has given permission.
“It’s about our rights,” Ms. Shifler, 36, said the other day at her home here in rural Maryland as she cradled her newborn daughter, Kaelii, in her arms and the rest of her brood roughhoused around her. Her husband, Michael, 37, a police officer, was able to take pictures 30 seconds after Kaelii’s birth last month, but Ms. Shifler is still fighting the hospital to change its policy.
“It’s my child,” she said. “Who can tell me I can take a picture or not take a picture of my own flesh and blood?”
For the hospital, the issue is not about “rights” but about the health and safety of the baby and mother and about protecting the privacy of the medical staff, many of whom have no desire to become instant celebrities on Facebook or YouTube.
Their concerns take place against a backdrop of medical malpractice suits in which video is playing a role. A typical case is one settled in 2007 that involved a baby born at the University of Illinois Hospital with shoulder complications and permanent injury; video taken by the father in the delivery room showed the nurse-midwife using excessive force and led to a payment to the family of $2.3 million.
Nationwide, photography and videography have been allowed in many delivery rooms for decades. But in recent years, technology creep has forced some hospitals to rethink their policies as they seek to balance safety and legal protection with the desire by some new mothers to document all aspects of their lives, including the entire birth process.
“Hospitals are struggling with it,” said Dr. Joanne Conroy, chief health care officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges. “Cellphones have exponentially increased the ability to take a picture — a high-quality picture — in a hospital setting.”
See Votes by State