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Should a Non-Identifiable Picture of a Patient's Body or Tissue be Posted on Social Media without Patient Permission?
[Note: This thread here is a copy of the Question I posted today on Medpedia and to which I encourage my visitors to go there and read the responses of the Medpedia subscribers to my question.]
Randy Cohen, columnist and ethicist, received the following request and then wrote about his response in his New York Times column "The Ethicist" Here was the request: "Some of my Facebook friends are medical students who post cellphone pictures of patients with what these friends believe to be comical maladies, with captions like 'A 5-foot-9 Hispanic male walks into a bar . . ' under a picture of a patient with a piece of rebar piercing his abdomen. The postings don’t include faces or names but still seem questionable. Doesn’t this violate patient privacy? NAME WITHHELD, NEW YORK"
Would a rebar piercing an abdomen be an identifying feature or would adding " a 5 foot 9 Hispanic male" make the picture identifying?
How about a nursing student posting to Facebook a picture of the students holding up a placenta but with no patient identification?
What if a photograph was published in a medical book without patient identification? If such book publishing of a picture of that placenta is legal, wouldn't holding up a placenta by a group of nursing students also be legal to publish on Facebook?
What are "identifying features" and if there are no identify features, would the INTENT of an unidentified body or body part on a social media be the guiding factor with regard to whether such public distribution is ethical or not? Would the intent to be funny or any other reason except for strictly educational intent be considered an ethical (and ?legal) violation of patient privacy? ..Maurice.