|Image Courtesy of Jeffrey M. Vinocur|
Today’s New York Times features a troubling story about a hospital that allowed reality TV camera crews to film Mr. Mark Chanko, a trauma patient’s dying moments after he was rushed to the hospital after being struck by a truck. The hospital acted without Mr. Chanko’s consent, and never notified his family that Mr. Chanko’s death was filmed, or might be broadcast on television. One night, completely unexpectedly, his wife, Mrs. Anita Chanko, was distressed to hear her deceased husband’s anguished voice crying out in his final moments, on an ABC reality show. The couple’s daughter, Pamela, who also saw the show, suffered emotional distress after witnessing the graphic details of her father’s gruesome death.
The Chanko family sued the hospital and ABC, but has faced an uphill battle in court. Recently, the family’s case was thrown out at the appellate level. A key defense for the hospital has been that the patient was not identifiable to the public because his face was blurred out, and that in any event, his privacy rights were extinguished upon his death. Further, the defendants are asserting that the First Amendment protects their free expression of the patient’s dying images.