Should Ohio allow patients’ families to install cameras in nursing-home rooms? Editorial Board Roundtable –

A decade or so ago, Clevelander Steve Piskor grew suspicious about whether his mother, Esther, who had dementia, was being abused by someone in her Cleveland nursing home after she sometimes told him she hadn’t eaten and was not OK. He put a camera in her room to check up on her.

Staff covered the camera after arguing it was a violation of their privacy. So Steve Piskor installed a hidden camera. It showed Esther Piskor being flung roughly onto her bed and into her wheelchair in ways that could have seriously hurt her; staff spraying room or body spray into her face; and aides yelling at her. The staff who mistreated her were subsequently prosecuted; Esther Piskor died in 2018.

But Steve Piskor took it even further. He contacted local lawmakers to ask them to introduce a law — a bipartisan proposal now known as “Esther’s Law” — to allow the lawyer or guardian of anyone in long-term care facilities to install cameras at their own expense, so they can check on loved ones and make sure they aren’t being abused.

Having remote eyes in patient rooms became even more important during the pandemic when family couldn’t visit — which may explain why Senate Bill 58, with principal sponsorship by Democratic state Sen. Nickie Antonio of Lakewood and Republican state Sen. Andrew O. Brenner of the Columbus area, sailed through the state Senate 32-0 in May and has already had four hearings in the Ohio House, where a committee has produced a substitute bill.

The bill as it passed the Senate allows roommates to say no or to agree only conditionally to the monitoring but also “requires a long-term care facility to make a reasonable attempt to accommodate a resident wishing to use electronic monitoring when the resident’s roommate refuses consent,” according to the Legislative Service Commission analysis.

Critics have argued that the bill should include assisted-living facilities and have more safeguards to make sure nursing homes comply, but backers have suggested that the bill’s language was already a carefully crafted compromise.

So what does our Editorial Board Roundtable think? An excellent bill that deserves passage? More work needed, or something else?

Ted Diadiun, columnist:

I’m tired of video cameras. They are everywhere – we are never safe from their prying lenses, whether they’re mounted on poles, wielded in cellphones, or hidden in doorways. But this is still a no-brainer. Pay attention to the second word: “Nursing HOME.” When you are home, you are entitled to take whatever security measures you deem necessary.

Thomas Suddes, editorial writer:

Yes, an excellent, overdue — and constructive — measure. Ohio families everywhere should thank the bill’s sponsors.

Eric Foster, columnist:

Imagine you hired a nanny, and she says that a camera in your house, where you pay the rent/mortgage, violates her privacy. Huh? Nursing homes aren’t free, either. A semi-private nursing home room in Ohio costs, on average, $7,148 a month. A private room? That’s $8,213 a month. Customers pay big money for those rooms. They deserve to know what they’re getting for those prices.

Lisa Garvin, editorial board member:

This is a good bill with just a few minor wrinkles. Unlike a similar Minnesota law that has a standardized request form for installing cameras, Ohio nursing homes must create their own forms with no guidance on how and when to provide them. Signs on rooms with cameras can serve as both fair warning and a deterrent to bad behavior.

Victor Ruiz, editorial board member:

Patients and their families should be allowed to have cameras in their rooms. This is a “checks and balances” that ensures that patients are treated well and holds institutions accountable. Cameras have become an important tool in exposing injustice, so I am for using them anywhere there is potential for abuse of power (e.g. classrooms, hospitals, etc.).

Mary Cay Doherty, editorial board member:

I typically oppose Big Brother surveillance. But after my mom’s nursing home experiences, I support this bill. When facilities cut corners on staffing, training, compensation, and accountability, residents suffer — often despite the staff’s best intentions. Many residents cannot advocate for themselves, and families cannot always be there. Cameras will prevent abuse and hold facilities accountable for providing proper care.

Elizabeth Sullivan, opinion director:

Three cheers to Steve Piskor for taking the initiative, first to protect his Mom, then to protect other’s mothers, and others’ dads, grandparents and siblings, too. And applause for SB 58′s primary sponsors, state Sens. Antonio and Brenner, for seeing this legislation through to likely passage. Well done, all.

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