Imagine that you are a woman who goes to a breast augmentation surgeon for breast implants only to find out later that the doctor posted your before and after photos on his website where visitors to the website can easily discover your name. Well, that’s what has happened with some breast implant patients throughout the United States!
There are lawsuits being filed across the United States for these serious violations of the privacy rights of patients. Many plastic surgeons obtain the permission from their patients to anonymously post before and after photos of patient procedures that do not show the patients’ faces or provide identifying information. Patients are often asked by their surgeons to signed waivers for the use of their photographs, but most waivers explicitly state that the patients will not be identified by name.
The problem arises because the surgeons, who use the photographs on their websites to market their services, fail to remove the identifying information from the digital photo files before posting the photographs on their websites, thereby allowing someone to scroll over the photographs and read the names of the patients associated with the photos or to search by name in Google Images which results in the photographs being provided in the search results.
The surgeons who are the subject of lawsuits involving the privacy violations often blame the companies they hired to develop and maintain their websites for their failures to prevent patient identifying information being available to visitors to their websites. The website developers and the managers of the websites in turn blame the surgeons for their failure to remove the identifying information from the digital files that are associated with the photographs that the surgeons provide to them for posting on their websites.
The solution is simple and effective: if the identifying information is properly removed by someone (anyone) from the digital files associated with the photographs before the photographs are posted on a website, the problem is eliminated. Who is responsible for removing such information seems to be causing surgeons and their website designers/managers to point their fingers at each other.
In the St. Louis area, ten patients of a breast augmentation surgeon have filed lawsuits against him because he posted their before and after photos on his website that contained personal identifying information. Allegedly, more than 30 of the surgeon’s patients, between the ages of 21 and 58, had their photographs posted on his website for which their names could be determined. Some of the victims found out about the situation from others who saw their photos.
And it is not just breast augmentation patients whose photos were posted on their surgeons’ websites that contained the names of the persons in the photos: patients who underwent cosmetic nose surgery, liposuction procedures, and breast reductions allegedly were also the victims of such privacy violations.
We understand why surgeons desire to market their patients’ successful results by posting on their websites the before and after photos of their surgical procedures — to enhance the perception of their competency and to imply that prospective patients can expect similar results (we cannot imagine any surgeon posting photographs showing less-than-expected or “bad” results of their surgical procedures on their websites). When doctors undertake such specific marketing/advertising to promote their practices, they must understand that they will be held responsible if they intentionally or unintentionally violate their patients’ rights and expectations regarding their privacy and their medical records (the before and after photos are medical records).
If you or someone you know had your privacy violated by a doctor publicly posting photographs of you that could be identified as you, you may have the right to seek compensation for having your privacy violated. You should promptly consult with a local attorney regarding your rights in the matter.
Click here to visit our website or telephone us toll-free at 800-295-3959 to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your state who may be willing and able to represent you in such a claim.
Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.