Posted by: medicblog999 | October 8, 2009

Beware the man with the camera!!

movie cameraThere have been some interesting posts pop up on some of the blogs I read during the last 24hrs. It appears to have started over at Statter 911, where a post was put up describing a video that is now doing the rounds on YouTube, showing a Fire Fighter/EMT from Keene (N.H – Is that new Hampshire?) getting a little upset with a cameraman/photographer who was recording film of him whilst he was performing his duties caring for a patient.

There seems to be a lot more involved in this than initially meets the eye, as you will see from the video produced from the `Free Keene` free rights/anti government group. I can imagine that there may be some history in this town with this group and the various government departments.

The interesting thing from an emergency care perspective though is to watch the video and imagine what you would do in his situation. You are caring for the patient and acting as their advocate. You will obviously be thinking about their confidentiality and may act in the same manner.

You will hear a lot of talk about HIPAA violations. This is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act 1996, which basically covers all patient confidentiality /patient identifiable information issues over in the U.S.

Here are some links about HIPAA if you want to know more (or want to nod off to sleep) Link 1, Link 2, Link 3.

Happy Medic also mentioned HIPAA in a recent blog post which explained things and how they directly relate to patient care in a much simply way. Although this is all American Jargon, what I can tell you from my experience of filming the ‘Emergency’ TV series over here in the UK, is that the law about filming in a public place is the same as in the U.S. Basically once you are out in the open, you lose the right to anonymity as you are in a public place, and therefore you can be filmed/photographed etc without your explicit consent

Anyway, here is the video..Have a watch, spend a little time thinking if you would have acted the same way, then click here to read the legal standpoint from Star of Life (paramedic and attorney!), and also from Steve over at the EMT Spot. Their views certainly opened my mind as to what is the right and wrong way to handle situations like these.

So, would you have done the right thing?

Let me know……..


  1. I blogged about this earlier too.

    I’ll be honest, I’d have taken his camera, wiped the film, and probably stepped on the thing too if he was being that pushy.

    I hate people like that, and they don’t do themselves any favours!

  2. Quite impressed that I’m part of your daily bloglines! Thanks 🙂

    You’re right, and it is the wrong way to act. I believe, however, that it is the way in which I probably *would* act at the moment. The question is, I guess, when it happens, do I have enough restraint!

  3. Just a few thoughts.

    First, “Star of Life” gives some good advice. I work in an area urban enough to draw cameras (usually professionals) frequently.

    The firefighter is BSing. HIPAA doesn’t cover this situation even a little bit. HIPAA covers specific situations regarding transmittal of patient information. I won’t bore you with the details. There may well be other laws that do, but I don’t know New Hampshire law at all, so I can’t comment.

    If the cameraman is a private citizen, one set of rules apply, if he’s a professional, the rules are somewhat different. In neither case can a cameraman (or reporter) interfere with the work of the police, fire, or EMS personnel at the scene. If so, they can be arrested for disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace.

    Even public buildings have areas that are not open to the public. Court houses have many such areas, for a variety of reasons.

    There is no reason to give anyone any information about the patient, the call, what you are doing, or where you are going.

    Not knowing New Hampshire law I can’t comment, but in my state, while video taping is completely legal in a public place, recording audio is a violation of state law. In fact, it’s a very serious violation of state law to audio record without the consent of all parties being recorded. In my state that would likely not get the guy with the camera arrested on the spot, but it would get him in serious trouble with the law.

    The people from “Free Keene” are correct in their interpretation of their rights. However, they are so completely unsympathetic that they hurt their cause, whatever it may be.

    That’s more like a blog post than a few thoughts, I hope that’s alright.

  4. Gad, Activists bug the hell out of me, for the most part. I was cheering the “camera swiper” the whole way through. He maybe could have handled the situation better, but I dunno. Seems like the cameraman was baiting him to get a reaction (which is what they do – and then they cut out any references to the baiting, and call out “police brutality!”)

    I mean, did you hear their cries of “brutality”? Did anyone see anything of the like? I saw a guy lose his camera for an hour, because he was being a nuisance.


  5. Oh, and for what it’s worth, I live in a university town that’s rife with people like the “Free Keane” movement. Mostly they’re just young liberal arts students who will protest anything and everything, as part of the “me” generation that wishes they grew up in the 60s.

  6. I love what y’all do. The job you do amazes me. This EMT let the antagonist get to him, however.

    The medical care provider isn’t violating HIPPA when a video taper comes along. He has no duty to stop the video taper, and is acting outside of his authority if doing so (provided the video taper is not interfering with the provider’s duties). Note: I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV.

    Open government is very important. Open government includes anyone in the government’s hire potentially being recorded by the public when in public while on duty, so long as the recording does not inhibit that duty. And inhibiting that duty had better be more than “it bugs me.”

    Some of the video tapers go out of their way to be obnoxious and provoke a response. That’s not a part of ensuring open government. That’s a different agenda altogether. However, the commentator is correct: The first amendment is meant to protect even (or especially) the obnoxious.

  7. The blog “Notes From Mosquito Hill” (mack505 [dot] blogspot [dot] com) has a couple of “HIPAA Mad-Libs” posted, in response to a post from the Happy Medic, in which he deleted all identifying information; Mack505 did some fill-in-the-blanks and had some fun with the whole mess.

    Disclosure notice (seemingly required these days): I have no connection with either of the bloggers mentioned, nor have I received any compensation, free products, or other inducements.

  8. Thanks for the plug and the pingback! I am glad to see this issue has brought out a lot of discussion.

    Totwtytr both here and on my site raised the issue of whether the auidio within the video violates state wiretapping laws.

    I responded to Totwtytr on my blog, but since he posted here as well, I thought I would respond here too. (Hope that is okay.)

    As I read the South Carolina Interception of Wire, Electronic, or Oral Communications statute, I don’t think it would apply if the Keene example happened here.

    The reason I say that is that we all know that video cameras also record audio. In this case the video camera was not hidden, but was in plain view. Further, the video was recorded on a public street.

    While on a public street or in a public place, you have limited to no expectation of privacy over your actions or words.The SC statute defines “oral communication” to mean “any oral communication uttered by a person exhibiting an expectation that the communication is not subject to interception.”

    In my opinion, statements uttered verbally and in public carry a very limited to no expectation that they will not be “intercepted” or overheard by a third party.

    I should clarify that the above is my own thoughts on the matter and my own rather limited interpretation of this portion of the statute. I have not located any SC Attorney General opinions on the matter, nor have I located any SC case law on the matter.

    In other words, I could be completely wrong.

    But totwtytr does raise an interesting point, and it singles out a glaring hole in the current statute that remains unanswered: Does recording video with accompanying audio while on a public street violate state wiretapping laws?

    I will continue to seek answers to that question and can hopefully provide an answer.


  9. Was it not a cell phone that he took? I think that guy was just Joe Blow on the street and not the media and well within his rights to record on his camera phone. The firefighter stepped over the line by taking his phone but the other guy doing all the yelling would make my blood boil too. At the end of the day you are public servants working to protect the citizens of your community focus your efforts on your patient and not the actions of the bystanders unless they are a direct impact on patient care which in this case he was not. He just let his anger take over but he is only human. Fingers crossed the other guy gets the man flu and is holed up at home for a few weeks.

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