NEW YORK — Medical reality shows are a big hit, but would you still watch knowing families and patients have, at times, not consented to the footage used? That's what happened to a devastated New York family.
It was truly a nightmare come to life: 16 months after her husband, Mark Chanko, was struck and killed by a city sanitation truck, Anita Chanko sat down to watch one of her favorite shows, NY Med. Suddenly the story line unfolding on this medical reality show was too real. It was her husband's final moments.
"I actually watched my husband die in front of my eyes and the worst thing is not only did I hear him moan and groan in pain but I heard him say, 'Does my wife know I'm here?'" Chanko recalled.
"I heard the doctor say. 'I'm ready to pronounce him. Are you ready?' I watched him die before my eyes without so much as a heads up from the show."
City Council Member Dan Garodnick along with local members of the State Senate and Assembly now want to make sure this never happens again to another family. Thirty-three out of 51 City Council members Thursday signed a letter to all New York City hospitals asking them to stop the practice of allowing reality shows to film inside and to stop them from violating patient rights.
"We embrace reality TV. This, however, is a crude window into people's medical care and is an unacceptable invasion of privacy and it is a breach in the trust patients place in the hands of their doctors and their hospitals," Garodnick said during a Thursday morning news conference.
There is also state legislation in the works on the matter. Though tabled for now, lawmakers hope it will gain momentum next year. It works to make broadcasts like NY Med illegal if they do not receive patient or family consent first.
"We were absolutely horrified. We could not believe the actions of the hospital and the broadcasting company were deemed legal," Assemblyman Ed Braunstein.
This fall, Garodnick said lawmakers plan to present a public report card of city hospitals, disclosing which have agreed to not allow reality show cameras onto their premises.
The Greater New York Hospital Association told PIX11 News it agrees no patients should be filmed for entertainment purposes without their consent and added they take patient privacy issues very seriously. GNYHA represents more than 100 hospitals across New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
The Chanko family's case against ABC, NY Med and New York Presbyterian will be heard by the state appeals court in the fall.