Assembly looks to protect patient’s privacy rights

9th District Legislators Senator Christopher J. Connors, Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove are supporting legislation to make it unlawful for first responders to disseminate photographs or video recordings of accident victims to the public without the consent of a victim, patient or their next-of-kin if the victim or person cannot provide consent.

Senator Connors is the prime sponsor of legislation (S-2891) in the Senate, while Assemblyman Rumpf and Assemblywoman Gove have joined as cosponsors on the companion bill (A-2274). The 9th District Legislators’ actions are in response to outreach from several constituents who have been affected by this issue, as well as first aid and emergency response personnel supportive of a state law to prohibit footage from accident scenes from being made available to the public without permission.

The legislation provides that any first responder who takes one or more photographs or electronic images or makes a video recording of an accident victim without the prior written consent would be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree, which is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000, or a term of imprisonment of up to 18 months or both.

Senator Connors, Assemblyman Rumpf and Assemblywoman Gove issued the following statement on the legislative initiative:

“This is an emotionally-charged issue that has directly touched the lives of several of our constituents who are seeking privacy protections under the law not just for themselves and their family, but for families who in the future are forced to endure a horrible tragedy in which a loved one is killed or seriously injured. In the age of the Internet, where video footage and pictures can be viewed by millions in only a short period of time, there is a pressing need for updating the law to protect grieving families and the cherished memories of their loved ones.”

“It is our understanding that many emergency service personnel are equally supportive of this legislation. In fact, in the absence of a state law some emergency service squads have adopted internal regulations or are attempting to do so, to prohibit personnel from taking footage of an accident scene without permission of the victim or family, even if strictly for training purposes. Even so, enacting a state law would be substantially more effective in ensuring that all first responders comply and better protecting families’ right to privacy.”

“Out of basic decency and respect, accident victims and their horrible ordeal simply should not be put on public display by first responders who are entrusted with caring for these persons, unless otherwise permitted by accident victims or their families. Some victims and their families may permit footage to be used for first responder training or some other purpose — but it should be their decision if the public sees it and theirs alone.”

Presently, S-2891 is lodged in the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee while A-2274 is lodged in the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee. The 9th District Delegation has forwarded several petitions and individual communications supportive of A-2274 and S-2891 to the State House for entry into the official record of public testimony.