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Are Hidden Cameras Legal in Nursing Homes?
Amid mounting concerns that Pennsylvania’s overall population is aging more rapidly than the nation’s, many counties across the state are looking for a way to help facilitate the tens of thousands of elder-abuse complaints made every year at nursing homes. While the investigative process is being hindered by a number of issues, one of the most common is lack of evidence. Despite apparent harm, emotional abuse can be hard to prove and any physical injuries could be chalked up to old age. If you believe your loved one is being abused or neglected, what can you do to help prove it?
In at least 8 states, there are laws or programs that allow some form of surveillance in nursing homes. In Wisconsin, they are taking a radical step to curb abuse and get reliable evidence by handing out free surveillance cameras to family members so they can secretly record caregivers suspected of nursing home abuse or neglect.
Unfortunately, there is not a similar existing program in Pennsylvania. In fact, it is a criminal offense to record audio without the consent of the person being recorded. So for example, if you placed an audio recorder in a nursing home room, you could be found guilty of wiretapping and be subject to criminal and civil penalties, including actual damages, punitive damages, litigation costs and attorney’s fees.
That being said, there is no state law that makes it a criminal offense to place a hidden surveillance camera in a resident’s room. However, this conduct may violate The Omnibus and Reconciliation Act (OBRA), a federal law that regulates the conduct of all nursing homes in the United States. The law states that patients have “the right to privacy with regard to accommodations, medical treatment, written and telephonic communications, visits, and meetings of family and of resident groups.”
Accordingly, if nursing home staff discover the video surveillance camera, they are authorized by law to remove it. Additionally, they may also refuse to allow video surveillance in the resident’s room going forward. Luckily, many nursing homes approve the use of video surveillance as long as there is the appropriate consent, and surveillance parameters are agreed upon. For example, the facility may require visible postings to warn staff and patients that the area is under surveillance.
When choosing a care facility, you must consider raising this issue with the nursing home facility’s administration. If you believe your loved one has been the victim of abuse or neglect, please contact our Montgomery County nursing home abuse attorneys at Morris Wilson, P.C. today.
Call (610) 825-0500 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
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