Veronica Valdez is suing Torrance Memorial Hospital in southern California after anesthesiologist Dr. Patrick Yang decorated her face with a mustache and teardrops while she was unconscious and allowed a nursing attendant to snap a photo. The hospital is now at the center of a growing debate about patients’ rights and the use of mobile devices in the operating room.
“I felt violated. I was in shock,” Valdez said in court documents.
According to the Daily Breeze, 36-year-old Valdez worked at the hospital for 13 years before going in for a minor surgery on her finger in Oct. 2011. Yang admittedly cut out and colored the stickers, and then placed them on Valdez’s face. Yang was suspended for two weeks for his actions. The nursing attendant who snapped the photo, Patricia Gomez, was also suspended for a brief period. Both kept their jobs and remain in good standing at the hospital.
“There’s no such thing as a joke in the operating room. For them to play a joke is cruel in my opinion,” attorney Andrew Ryan said. “I have not seen anything like this. It’s an incredible breach of privacy, of HIPAA, of common decency, of the Hippocratic Oath.”
Torrance Memorial intends to fight the suit and even requested a dismissal. Since the incident, the hospital conducted behavioral training for the operating room staff and “strengthened its policy on patient privacy.”
“Most of the allegations stated in the plaintiff’s complaint are factually inaccurate, grossly exaggerated or fabricated,” the hospital said in a statement. “The patient and her attorney reported the incident to multiple authorities who conducted investigations. No criminal charges were filed or citations given."
"In addition, the medical center reported the situation to the Joint Commission and the American Nurses Credentialing Center, both of which investigated and closed the incident with no findings," the hospital concluded.
Valdez’s suit is scheduled for trial in January.