States Debate “Granny Cams” Catching Nursing Home AbuseNovember 19, 2013 — In the wake of several high-profile cases of nursing home abuse caught on camera, three states — Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas — have passed laws explicitly permitting so-called “granny cams” in the rooms of long-term care residents.

Often times, family members place hidden cameras because they suspect abuse. In some cases, the recordings have captured shocking instances of cruelty and neglect.

The New York Times reported the abuse of Eryetha Mayberry, a 96 year-old dementia patient. Suspecting theft, Mayberry’s daughter placed a motion-activated surveillance camera hidden in an alarm clock, and saw video of her mother being abused:

“An aide stuffed latex gloves into Mrs. Mayberry’s mouth, while another taunted her, tapping her on the head, laughing. Hoisting her from her wheelchair, they flung her on a bed. One performed a few heavy-handed chest compressions.”

Some states have also used hidden surveillance cameras to catch abusers. Mike DeWine, the Ohio state attorney general, placed cameras in a number of state facilities. His office has moved to shut down one facility where abuse was documented.

Privacy advocates raise questions about the appropriateness, legality, and ethics of using hidden cameras in nursing homes. Many long-term care residents lack the intellectual capacity to consent to being under surveillance. Many residents in nursing homes also have roommates who have a right not to be monitored.

Then there is the question of whether notices should be posted. Unions representing healthcare workers have voiced concern about privacy rights, especially when the cameras are placed without notice. In some cases, however, abuse was only caught on camera because the workers did not realize they were being watched.

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