MICHIGAN, USA — Michigan lawmakers proposed a new bill that would allow cameras to be installed inside nursing home rooms. The action is an effort to combat elder abuse.
The bill, which was proposed by Republican Michigan Sen. Jim Runestad, would allow a resident's loved ones to oversee their treatment. Patients would have to give their consent for the cameras to be placed. If the patient is in a shared living space, all roommates would also have to give their consent before a camera is permitted. If a patient was not coherent to make the decision, the resident's power of attorney could authorize camera use.
Under the bill, Runestad said there must be signs in each room that notify the community of the cameras and filming.
"There’s going to be no surprise to anyone that this is going to be going on," he said.
Through the bill, caregivers can close the curtains in a room to block the camera's gaze when performing private procedures or when a resident needs to tend to other private matters.
However, the Healthcare Association of Michigan (HCAM) has spoken out against the bill, calling it a invasion of privacy and dignity.
"I’ve heard this being compared to preschools, or doggie day cares or even cameras on porches to look after your Amazon packages. These are adults. To compare them to a preschooler, or a dog or a package is really insulting. They deserve their privacy, dignity and respect and we should not treat them like dogs," Richie Farran, vice president of government services for HCAM said.
Runestad called HCAM's concern over privacy "comical" asking, "How are you imposing it on them when they want this when the family member wants it?"
HCAM also has concerns that the bill could open a threat to patient security.
"We have seen web-based video devices be hacked and actually used maliciously against those who are on camera. If any medical care is captured and that’s used unauthorized, that’s a HIPAA violation," Farran explained, adding giving a power of attorney the right to make a decision to film the patient is a privacy issue.
"If the individual while they were of sound mind, continuously said 'I would never want to be recorded' and now they’re not competent to make that decision for themselves, a family member could put that camera in the room," Farran said.
When asked about opposition from health organizations, Runestad said, "There's privacy provisions built into it (the bill), so it's really a matter of them not wanting the transparency, the oversight. They don't want people to know what's going on."
According to the National Council on Aging, as many as 5 million elders are abused each year, and one in 10 Americans age 60 and older have experienced some form of elder abuse. The organization said one study estimated that only one in 14 cases of abuse are reported to the authorities.
Last year, Attorney General Dana Nessel charged three Kent County women with elder abuse.
The bill has been referred to the committee on Health Policy and Human Services. Runestad said he hopes push it through to law as soon as possible.
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