HCA Hospital Staff Shared Unauthorized Photos of Dying Patient on Social Media

Stock photo by Taber Andrew Bain via Flickr
While trying to cope with his 18-year-old son's death, Jose Lopez was informed by HCA Florida Kendall Hospital that an emergency room worker had posted a photo on social media of the teenager in the operating room a few weeks before he died.

The hospital worker posted the unauthorized photo of Lopez's son on Instagram on May 28 shortly after the young man was airlifted to the emergency room for treatment of his injuries in a motorcycle accident. The employee posted the photo with emoji symbols and tagged a co-worker in the post, Lopez says.

The father is now suing HCA Florida Kendall Hospital in Miami-Dade County court on counts for medical privacy violations, negligence, and infliction of emotional distress.

"[The] public display of horrific images has caused and will continue to cause immeasurable profound grief," the lawsuit states. "The grotesque conduct is shocking to the conscience."

Lopez's son, Jose Lopez Canizares, was struck by a vehicle in Kendall Lakes while riding his motorcycle near SW 137th Avenue and SW 56th Street. The vehicle's driver had allegedly run a red light.

The 18-year-old was airlifted to the hospital but never regained consciousness. He passed away June 22.

A hospital privacy official informed Lopez about the social media post the day his son was taken off life support, according to the complaint. In an apology letter, the hospital acknowledged that the employee had impinged on Lopez's son's medical privacy. The letter noted that the posted picture had been removed from the employee's social media and that the hospital was retraining its staff on patient privacy matters.

"We have addressed the situation and are taking steps to prevent such incidents from happening in the future," reads the letter, which is included in the court file.

The hospital at first did not provide Lopez with the photo in question, which the lawsuit alleges "only further served to compound [Lopez's] grief and stress."

He eventually received two images: the one referenced in the letter and another picture on a different hospital worker's Instagram profile, which depicted his son being transported to the hospital by helicopter.

"HCA Florida Kendall Hospital facilitated the actions of the posting of these images on social media by either nonexistent or inadequate or insufficient training," the lawsuit alleges.

The complaint adds: "Given the 'viral nature' of the internet, it is not known how long the images were displayed, and whether the images were circulated or disseminated by other Instagram users to their pages."

The hospital did not return New Times' request for comment.

This isn't the first time a Miami hospital employee has allegedly shared an unauthorized photo of a patient on social media. A neonatal intensive care nurse at Jackson Memorial Hospital was fired last year after she was accused of posting a photo of a baby with a birth defect on social media. The post showed the baby suffering from gastroschisis, a medical condition where the intestines are exposed.
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Naomi Feinstein is a staff writer at Miami New Times. She was born-and-raised in South Florida and is a graduate of the University of Miami where she majored in journalism and political science. While at UM, Naomi worked for the student-run newspaper The Miami Hurricane and was named the 2021 Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Florida's College Journalist of the Year. She later received her master's degree from the Columbia University School of Journalism.
Contact: Naomi Feinstein

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