Nurse Shared Penis Pictures Of Unconscious Patients — Cameras Too Much At The Ready? [Opinion]

One of the many things that go into a hospital stay is trust. A patient is at a very vulnerable point when they are in a hospital bed or in the back of an ambulance while being transported to that hospital. That’s especially true if they are unconscious. It is at this point when the patients can’t fend for themselves that their loved ones can only trust that they will be treated with care and kindness by the medical professionals assigned to their care.

This didn’t seem to be the case for two unconscious patients at a New York hospital when a nurse responsible for their care allegedly shared penis photos of two patients with her coworkers. This also didn’t ring true for some 41 patients transported by a couple of paramedics in Florida. They were taking selfies with their patients in the back of their ambulance, with many of these patients also being unconscious.

Whether the patient is in the long-term care of a hospital or being cared for during a quick ambulance ride, once that professional has the patient in their care they are bound by HIPPA laws to keep their case confidential. There was nothing confidential when penis pictures of patients were shared among coworkers in an Upstate New York Hospital.

The nurse, Kristen Johnson, was arrested and faced charges of unlawful surveillance and disseminating unlawful surveillance, according to America Now. Her arrest followed a nine-month investigation by District Attorney’s Office of these allegations at the Upstate University Hospital. According to KTLA News back in March, Johnson entered the plea of guilty to the charges. Part of the deal was she had to surrender her nursing license.

Johnson was also put on probation for three years. Decades ago, before the invention of the cell phone and the cell phone camera, to take a picture of anything in a hospital would entail the cumbersome camera and a bright flash. It would have been too much work by the time you did this and then had the film developed so it probably wouldn’t happen, or at the very least, it wouldn’t have gone unnoticed.

Nurse who took picture of patient's penis would have had a much harder time decades ago without a cell phone camera.

With a cell phone in her pocket, these pictures were more than likely easy to take and just as easily to share with the push of a button on the cell phone. Have people become so immune to taking pictures of just about everything and anything that the lines have been blurred? Was this just an object to this nurse for purposes of a picture instead of being a part of their bodies, a very private part?.

While you would like to think that this is an isolated case, it isn’t. Two paramedics were playing what some of their patients called a “sick juvenile game” with people who ended up in the back of their ambulance. According to the Washington Post back in 2015, Kayla Renee Dubois, 24, and Christopher Wimmer, 33, embarked on a “selfie war” that lasted for months. They allegedly took these pictures for what they thought was only amusing workplace rivalry.

The two embarked on this “selfie war” taking pictures of patients who were “often unconscious, intubated or anesthetized,” in the back of their ambulance, reports the Washington Post. The two took dozens of pictures, but only three patients “seemed to have consented” and the rest did not.

While they did not target a specific body part like the nurse above did, Dubois and Wimmer took pictures of these people at one of the most vulnerable times of their lives. They were sick or injured and on the way to the hospital. According to the Washington Post, one of the photos taken showed Wimmer “peeling open the eyelid of a sedated individual.” In another picture, he is seen in a selfie with an elderly woman and her breast is visible in the picture.

Police estimate 41 patients in all were captured in pictures and their ages ranged from 24 to 86. These incidents took place from September of 2015 and ended in April of 2016 after this selfie war was brought to an abrupt ending. Wimmer resigned when the selfie wars were exposed after three unnamed co-workers stepped up to their superiors to report this. Dubois was fired. Three other paramedics also lost their jobs for knowing about this and not reporting it. Dubois was charged with a third-degree felony for two counts of interception and disclosure of oral communications. Wimmer was slapped with the same charge on seven counts and he was also charged with misdemeanor battery.

Society is getting used to taking a quick snapshot of anything that catches their interest by whipping out their cell phone. Then what do you do with that picture? It is no good on your cell phone where no one else can see it, so it is shared across social media sites, emailed or attached to a text message sent to friends. It is almost as if folks have become immune to the harm a picture can do or they just don’t take the time to think it out. All three of these people, Johnson, Dubois, and Wimmer are working under the Federal HIPPA laws which provide privacy for a patient. Breaking these confidential rules and regulations will land a person in trouble, as seen in the cases above.

[Featured Image by AP Images/AP Images File]