This story showed up on Courthouse News Service yesterday and certainly caught our attention. One night in June, a Chicago college student called Elena Chernyakova had too much alcohol and had to be taken by ambulance to a local emergency room. During her stay in the ER, Dr. Vinaya Puppula, a fellow at the adjacent Northwestern University medical school, came to her room and asked to look at Chernyakova’s medical records, even though, as the complaint points out, “the plaintiff was not his patient.”
We’ll let the complaint, as quoted on Courthouse News Service, take it from here:
[The complaint] continues: “At or around 4 p.m., on June 13, 2013, Dr. Puppala came down to the ER again and commenced taking pictures of plaintiff while she was on the hospital bed, crying, and attached to an IV.
“Dr. Puppala was seen by hospital security in the hospital taking the pictures and was asked to delete them immediately, which he refused to do.
“Dr. Puppala decided to public [sic] said photographs on the Internet through Facebook and Instagram online sharing programs.
“Dr. Puppala attached statements of commentary describing Ms. Chernyakova’s condition in those photographs.
“The photographs were recognized as being photographs of the plaintiff by at least four persons…
“At all times, while in the hospital, plaintiff did not consent to her pictures being taken by Dr. Puppala, nor was capable of giving any such consent.”
The upshot of the complaint is that Chernyakova is suing the doctor, the hospital, and the medical school, for $1.5 million, claiming invasion of privacy, public disclosure of private facts, negligence, and emotional distress. As the complaint also states, she “felt violated, as her hospitalization was her private medical matter”, and she also alleges that her future plans, “to someday work for Fortune 500 companies”, “may now not occur because of said photographs.”
We have to wonder what this doctor was thinking. There must be ethical rules (something in HIPAA maybe) that prohibit doctors from doing this kind of thing, and it sounds even worse if, as alleged, he was asked to delete the pictures and refused to do so. It should be very interesting to see how this matter progresses.