A hospital security guard threatened a woman with arrest and loss of Medicaid because she took pictures of her own son during a routine exam. The guard even told the woman, Mandi Wilson, that taking pictures with a phone constituted “trespassing.”
The guard demanded she hand over the phone.
“Here’s what’s going to happen, if you do not cooperate. I’m going to have to escort you off the property, we will trespass you and they will probably fire you as a patient,” a security guard identified as Officer Perkins told Wilson. Staff at Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Missouri, asked for Perkins’ assistance after they observed Wilson taking pictures of her son with her phone during an audiology exam.
Perkins’ remarks were part of a disturbing conversation secretly recorded by Wilson and posted online. The remarks, Wilson said, demonstrate a dramatic violation of her rights.
“In my mind me not complying was letting him go through my personal property and my phone,” Wilson told a television station.
Perkins told Wilson, “It may be personal property but it was taken on these premises which is my property.”
Wilson wanted to post the picture on a fundraising website for her son.
Guard Claims Photography Is Illegal
Perkins claimed that Wilson had violated a federal law called the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which is popularly known as HIPAA. HIPAA mandates a set of privacy standards for medical records.
Among other things, HIPAA makes it illegal for healthcare providers to share medical records without consent of the patient. It’s unclear how taking pictures of her son would have violated the law.
“Per legal and HIPAA no one is allowed to take any type of photography, video, audio or still pictures on hospital property,” Perkins said. “Even if it’s like of your own child or whatever, it’s just how the regulations are.”
When Wilson refused to go along with Perkins’ orders he began to threaten her.
“You’re being trespassed for violation of HIPAA,” Perkins said. “I’m informing you now that you’re being trespassed. If you come back on the property, you will be detained and taken to the Greene County Jail.”
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“Because I took a picture of my son?” Wilson asked. “I was unaware that I couldn’t take a picture of my son on my phone.”
“Well now you know and you are not cooperating because you won’t let me see your picture,” the security guard responded.
Guard Threatened To Take Her Insurance?
Perkins also told her that “this has created several issues on the federal level and this probably will be reported to Medicaid.”
Wilson told a local TV station that she thought he was threatening to take away her son’s health insurance.
“I was scared. They were scaring me, intimidating me and I didn’t know what they were doing with my kid. For some reason, my only thoughts were she’s on Medicaid so they are going to call CPS and report me to Medicaid,” Wilson told TV station Channel 33.
Wilson committed no crime, defense attorney Dee Wampler told Channel 33. Wampler noted that the hospital could only charge Wilson with a crime if it posted a sign prohibiting photography.
The current legal doctrine in the US is that photography is legally protected free speech in public places and on private property that is visible to the public. The same doctrine states that photography can be disallowed in a building if a sign banning it is clearly posted.
“This is insane because I took a picture of my son,” Wilson told Perkins and an unidentified hospital administration. After the confrontation with Perkins, she left the hospital with her son and didn’t return. It’s easy to see why.
Should hospitals be allowed to ban photography, even of relatives? Tell us in the comments section below.