Washington Hospital Employee Fired Following Serious HIPAA Violation

An employee of Washington Hospital has been fired after taking pictures of a female patient’s genitals while she was unconscious. The patient, identified in the lawsuit only as Jane Doe, was also an employee of Washington Hospital. The employee, who took the photographs, a scrub nurse, shared the images with colleagues at the facility. The patient has filed a lawsuit seeking damages for the harm caused by the incident.

The patient has been admitted to Washington Hospital to undergo hernia surgery. In a complaint filed in Washington County Court, she alleges that while she was unconscious, a scrub nurse took photographs of her genitals on a mobile phone. Following this, the nurse shared the photographs with their co-workers at the facility. 

HIPAA Rules clearly state that photographing patients without their consent is a clear violation of patient rights. Violations of this nature can result in severe consequences for perpetrators, such as significant financial penalties levied against them. For example, in 2017, a New York hospital settled a HIPAA violation case with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Rights and paid a financial penalty of $2.2 million. In that case, a television crew had been authorized to film in the hospital, but no patients had been asked for their consent to be included in the film.

The victim of the HIPAA violation that occurred at Washington Hospital claims she became aware that photos had been shared the day after her operation. She also claims the scrub nurse showed her the photographs that had been taken. She immediately reported the extreme violation of her privacy to her supervisors. The scrub nurse was duly fired for the HIPAA violation.

However, this termination did not settle matters. Jane Doe said, taking action against the scrub nurse resulted in her “being treated like the wrongdoer, not the victim.” As a result of the complaint she was “forced to endure harassment, humiliation and backlash,” and “extreme hostility” at work. That harassment has allegedly continued outside of her workplace. 

Jane Doe was given two weeks of paid leave as a healing period, and returned to her unit in the same position. As a result of the traumatic incident, she suffered migraines, anxiety, and insomnia. Her physician recommended that she request a further paid leave of 3 months, but the request was denied by her supervisors. She subsequently took unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act and was terminated in October.

The lawsuit names the hospital, a doctor who was in the operating room but failed to stop the scrub nurse from taking photos and did not report the incident, and several other workers at the hospital. Jane Doe seeks in excess of $75,000 in damages for the “severe physical, emotional and psychological stress” caused. The patient’s husband is also a plaintiff and is suing for loss of consortium. The case shall be resolved later this year.