Ask the legal expert ... about hidden cameras
Attorney John Durso, Ungaretti & Harris LLP
Staff members have discovered a hidden camera that family members planted in their loved one's room, suspecting that she was being abused or not take care of properly. What should be our next step?
Facilities that find a hidden camera, or facilities considering implementing a policy related to cameras in a resident's room, should check the requirements of their state laws.
More states are passing laws addressing hidden cameras in the long-term care setting. Texas, New Mexico, Maryland and Oklahoma have enacted laws making hidden cameras legal in skilled nursing facilities, and other states are weighing similar legislation.
Please note, however, that while video recording may be permissible, audio recordings of a person's voice, such as that of a nursing home employee, without that person's consent may be illegal under federal (and state) wiretapping and eavesdropping laws.
Although facilities may not have control over whether residents' families will use hidden cameras, a facility can proactively implement a policy concerning hidden cameras. This policy can alert staff and volunteers to the potential that such cameras may exist, and can help ensure that hidden cameras are being used in an appropriate and legal way. Further, this policy can be distributed to residents and family members so that, if they choose to use a camera, they are aware of the legal requirements.
For example, depending on state law, a policy may state that hidden cameras are permissible in residents' rooms so long as they record video only, and that the facility is not responsible for lost, stolen or damaged equipment.
A facility also can consider installing cameras on its own to promote trust among residents and family members.