PATIENT PRIVACY: Is Munchausen Study ‘Unethical’?
To confirm suspicions that children's illnesses were intentionally being caused by their mothers, researchers at an Atlanta hospital secretly installed video cameras in 41 rooms. Although the hidden cameras successfully helped diagnose 23 cases of Munchausen syndrome by proxy -- a mental disorder that causes parents to abuse their children in order to receive attention -- the move raised privacy concerns among specialists who called the study "unethical." But the five authors, doctors at Emory University, and the hospital where the study took place, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite, disagree. They contend that such cameras can be "lifesavers for children" whose mothers are suspected of having the disorder, because these cases are so difficult to diagnose. Responding to critics, the researchers argue that "privacy rights are often compromised in hospitals" (McClam, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.