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A California hospital secretly filmed 1,800 women during births, hysterectomies, and other procedures, according to a new lawsuit.
The plaintiffs claim the recordings took place inside labor and delivery rooms at Sharp Grossmont Hospital and Sharp HealthCare in El Cajon. The hospital says the surveillance was part of an investigation "into whether an employee was stealing anesthesia," court documents say.
But the videos, which were made during a year-long period, showed a lot more than employees at work.
The video recordings, taken between July 17, 2012, and June 30, 2013, showed patients during Cesarean births, hysterectomies, sterilizations, dilatation and curettage to resolve miscarriages. They also revealed women undressing and partially robed on operating tables.
"At times, Defendants' patients had their most sensitive genital areas visible," the lawsuit states. The images show operations "of a very personal, private nature."
The patients' faces were also recorded, the lawsuit says, and they were identifiable. Eighty-one plaintiffs allege the recordings were visible on desktop computers that anyone could access.
"It's the most fundamental breach of privacy," said Allison Goddard, an attorney who represents the plaintiffs.
They believe the defendants have destroyed "at least half" of the recordings. The hospital, for its part, does not deny making them.
However, the hospital says it was acting on behalf of the patients. Administrators were trying to catch a thief.
"The purpose of the three cameras was to ensure patient safety by determining the cause of drugs missing from the carts," the company said in a statement.
Hidden cameras were installed on anesthesia carts in three operating rooms. They captured a doctor removing drugs, including the powerful anesthetic propofol, and placing items into a shirt pocket.
The defendants declined to comment on similar litigation filed in 2016. However, they said it alleged privacy and other violations "stemming from the video recording."