NY hospitals agree not to film patients without permission

The Chanko family at City Hall in July: Barbara, wife of Mark Chanko’s son Kenneth (right), Mark’s daughter Pamela and his widow Anita (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The Chanko family at City Hall in July: Barbara, wife of Mark Chanko’s son Kenneth (right), Mark’s daughter Pamela and his widow Anita (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Last month, Town & Village reported on how local elected officials were calling on New York hospitals to respect patients’ privacy by not allowing them to be filmed without prior consent. This push came as a result of the story of Mark Chanko, a former Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper resident, whose medical treatment and death, after being struck by a truck near his home, wound up being filmed for an ABC reality show called “NY Med.” He hadn’t consented to being filmed nor had anyone in his family. Though his face was blurred, those who knew him, including his widow Anita, recognized him immediately.

When asked for comment in July, the Greater New York Hospital Association responded to T&V to say its president, Kenneth E. Raske, agreed with the elected officials and was asking hospitals to abide by their request. New York Presbyterian, where “NY Med” was filmed, is a member hospital.

More recently, the Greater New York Hospital Association took the statement a step further by contacting the elected officials who’d asked for a change in policy directly, including Council Member Dan Garodnick. Along with reiterating, in a letter, that the GNYHA agreed that patients shouldn’t be filmed for entertainment purposes, Raske said this policy is consistent with existing state and federal laws.

Those laws, he said, “require that patients be afforded the right to confidentiality of their medical information and the right to privacy in their medical care.”

Additionally, in an official statement released last week, Raske said, “Council Members asked our members to pledge not to film or record, or expressly allow any third party to film or record, a patient or family member for entertainment purposes without their prior written approval. We agree with these principles and have asked our members to abide by them.”

This point of view has also recently been shared on the GNYHA website, at least on a section accessible to healthcare professionals, Kenneth Chanko, Mark’s son recently learned.

Kenneth told Town & Village he and his family appreciated the association’s statements.

“We are heartened that city hospitals, through the Greater New York Hospital Association, have agreed that it’s far more important to protect the privacy of its patients than it is to garner publicity by filming patients who have not consented to such filming,” he said. “We hope this will help to ensure privacy from unwanted filming for all vulnerable hospital patients and their families.”

Garodnick, meanwhile, said he hopes hospitals outside of New York will also take note of the move to protect patients. In Boston, he noted, there’s now a reality show similar to “NY Med” in the works.

“You have one city taking a very strong step,” said Garodnick. “Boston should follow suit.”

Kenneth, a Stuyvesant Town resident who at one time was Town & Village’s film critic, is currently a plaintiff, along with other members of his family, in a lawsuit against ABC and New York Presbyterian Hospital. Oral arguments from the suit will be heard in the Court of Appeals in late fall.

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