Report: Nursing Home Workers Illegally Posting Photos of Residents Online
Nursing homes are supposed to care for our loved ones in a professional and dignified manner. Unfortunately, there are many cases of nursing home abuse, which often go undiscovered until it’s too late. And one of the more bizarre forms of abuse to come to light in recent weeks is the exploitation of nursing home patients through social media networks.
According to a ProPublica report published by the Washington Post on December 21, “Nursing home workers across the country are posting embarrassing and dehumanizing photos of elderly residents on social media networks such as Snapchat.” More specifically, ProPublica documented “35 incidents since 2012” where nursing home employees posted “partially or completely naked” photos of residents online.
Ironically, in some cases these inappropriate posts have actually exposed additional nursing home abuses. For example, prosecutors in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, were alerted to abuse “in response to claims from relatives that inappropriate videos of nursing home residents had been posted on Snapchat” by the employees. The Middlesex District Attorney subsequently filed criminal charges against two of the employees identified in the videos.
The Difficulty of Holding Nursing Homes Legally Responsible
ProPublica noted publishing photos of a nursing home resident without his or her consent “may violate” federal laws protecting patient privacy rights. Federal Medicaid rules, which cover almost all nursing homes, further prohibit the “exploitation” of any resident as a condition of receiving federal funds. But according to ProPublica, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is charged with enforcing privacy laws through its Office of Civil Rights, has not penalized any nursing homes for making inappropriate social media posts or even issued formal guidelines on the subject.
It can also be difficult for family members of abused nursing home patients to seek justice on their own. Many nursing homes require residents to sign away their rights to sue in favor of “mandatory arbitration.” As we have previously noted, these arbitration clauses take away a victim’s right to a trial by jury in favor of a private arbitrator whose decision cannot be appealed. Tennessee courts will usually compel victims to honor such binding arbitration clauses unless they can prove the requirement is “oppressive or unconscionable.”
Do You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect?
If you have a loved one in a nursing home, it is important to keep a close watch on their care. You need to be persistent in monitoring your relative’s treatment and condition. If you have any questions or concerns, you should immediately demand to speak with an administrator to get some answers.
And if you suspect any form of neglect or abuse, you should not try to tackle these issues on your own. A qualified Tennessee personal injury attorney can advise you on how to proceed. While no attorney can guarantee a particular result, a lawyer experienced in nursing home abuse and neglect cases can review your loved one’s situation and help you decide whether legal action may be necessary. If you live in the Clinton or Knoxville areas and require assistance, please contact the offices of Fox Farley Willis & Burnette, Attorneys at Law, right away.