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Authorities Catch Nursing Home Abuse on Camera

In a novel move that has the potential to spread rapidly among law enforcement agencies across the country, the Ohio attorney general’s office announced it was shuttering a suburban nursing home after authorities installed cameras that captured footage of abuse.

Our Riviera Beach nursing home abuse lawyers understand that while Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine noted it was the first time authorities there had taken such action, he has pledged it won’t be the last.

DeWine was quoted as saying that he was putting all nursing homes and nursing home employees on notice of the state’s “new way of approaching this.”

His office has reported a spike in reports of nursing home abuse across the state, receiving some 131 neglect and abuse cases thus far this year, compared with fewer than 75 this time last year. A number of those investigations launched as a result, DeWine said, involved the use of cameras.

This has caused nursing home staff to throw out words like “paranoia,” “police state” and “spying.” Of course, this melodrama on the part of nursing homes is merely because they don’t want all of their secrets exposed. Even relatively well-maintained operations have a tendency to cut corners. Knowing there is a possibility they are being watched provides a heightened incentive to do the right thing at all times, not just when they know someone is nearby or they are due for an inspection.

As a preventative measure, implementing a standardized video monitoring system could be monumental – though such innovative measure may still be some time away.

There are some legal implications, as most nursing homes are private, for-profit entities. For Ohio authorities, they had to obtain consent from every resident and/or guardian who was being recorded. In doing so, state investigators did not need to obtain a warrant.

The issue of whether family members could initiate such surveillance without breaking the law is iffy. State law mandates a patient’s bill of rights that includes the right to privacy during medical treatment. Then you have federal law that protects privacy of both medical records and treatment. Florida statute doesn’t expressly prohibit private cameras in nursing homes, but it’s possible that such action could violate the law. This is why if you strongly suspect abuse, you should talk first with an experienced nursing home abuse attorney who can guide you through how best to approach the situation.

Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas each have laws that expressly allow individuals to install cameras in nursing homes. Florida and Massachusetts, meanwhile, have initiated video-monitoring pilot programs.

That program allowed nursing homes from various parts of the state to volunteer to have video cameras installed in common areas and in individual rooms, if residents approved. Of course, the program was predicated on nursing home participation, and it was limited. Those nursing homes most prone to neglect or abuse weren’t likely to sign up for the program. In the end, it was not sanctioned as an ongoing, statewide effort.

Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Spying on nursing-home employees at issue, July 1, 2013, By Eric Lyttle, The Columbus Dispatch

More Blog Entries:
Lauderdale Lakes Nursing Home Lawyers Troubled by Abuse Footage, May 19, 2013, Riviera Beach Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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