Senator Paul Thurmond of Charleston introduced a bill in the South Carolina legislature that would allow residents’ families to place video surveillance cameras in a resident’s room. The bill is aimed to help track the care given to family members and may help reduce abuse or neglect in nursing homes. Senator Thurmond described the bill as beneficial for nursing homes, as surveillance would provide them with evidence to overcome wrongful accusations of mistreatment. However, industry advocates raise privacy concerns, especially considering that many nursing homes have two or more residents per room.
Video Bills Passed in OK, NM, and TX
Three states — Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas — have passed legislation explicitly permitting residents in long-term care facilities to maintain surveillance cameras in their rooms. According to a New York Times report, at least five other states have considered similar legislation in the last two years. A few other states such as Maryland have administrative guidelines for electronic monitoring. Additionally, the New York and Ohio state attorney generals’ offices have relied on hidden cameras in nursing home abuse and neglect cases for years, and have successfully shut down several facilities based on recorded instances of abuse.
Consent and Notification
Residents often lack the capacity to consent to being recorded, so a representative has to stand in that resident’s shoes and consider whether he or she would consent, if mentally capable of doing so. Additionally, residents often have roommates who have the right to refuse to be monitored. For example, Maryland has administrative guidelines for facilities that require cameras to be in a fixed position directed at only the intended resident. However, employees, unlike residents, have no expectation of privacy that their actions are going unrecorded.
Additionally, the issue arises of whether other residents, employees, and visitors should be notified that electronic surveillance is occurring. Many facilities that permit video cameras to be installed in residents’ rooms usually require families to post a notice on the resident’s door. Advocates for nursing homes believe that notification encourages transparency and affirms shared expectations for quality care.
South Carolina Surveillance Bill
Senator Thurmond’s proposed legislation would require licensed, long-term care facilities to inform residents that monitoring of an area is permissible with the resident’s permission. Further, the bill makes it illegal to decline potential residents or remove current ones because of the use of surveillance.
Additionally, the bill would make it a misdemeanor for someone to alter with monitoring device, a crime can lead to a year in prison and a $5,000 fine. It would also make it a felony for anyone to alter a device with the intent of committing a felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. If passed, the bill would allow video to be admitted into evidence for court proceedings.