Hospital bosses came under fire today (weds) for allowing couples to be ‘covertly’ filmed at the moment they were told their unborn babies had died.
Midwives and charity chiefs have raised concerns over the use of small cameras in a dark scan room at the Rosie Maternity Hospital in Cambridge for a TV documentary.
It was claimed that hospital staff had been advised not to tell parents they are being filmed at the hospital over the last few weeks.
Clinical Lead of Women’s Services Jeremy Brocklesby defended the decision saying the documentary was aimed to “untabooise” a very sad part of pregnancy.
He said notices warning couples they were being filmed were “adequate” notice and added: “It’s for a documentary that is being made about stillbirth.
“Unless we get this out to the public conversation it will go no further, it will remain taboo.”
Dr Brocklesby also claimed the majority of pregnant women who had suffered a miscarriage who consent to being part of the film with the “right approach”.
He said: “Staff are not advised to say there’s cameras in rooms but if patients mention it the notice then they will happily talk about it.
“I think there’s adequate notice. It’s flagged up – there are notices to suggest filming is taking place.”
The A4 posters warn CCTV is being filmed in small white cameras in the hospital’s Clinic 23 where couples are given bad news of their unborn babies.
The footage is deleted if the couple’s do not consent to being view to TV production staff.
A doula, who supports Cambridgeshire mothers throughout pregnancy, said: “It was a few weeks ago and a client old me that she had seen a post up in the Rosie and was quite worried she had been filmed.
“I emailed the head of maternity and didn’t get a response.
“Most doulas have expressed extreme concerns to me and a number of their clients are quite worried and I do have midwife friends who agree with my staff on this.”
Parents have called for an apology from the hospital saying “there is an expectation of absolute privacy” in the room.
Human rights charity Birthrights has written to Addenbrooke’s Hospital raising concerns over the documentary was being made after mothers raised concerns with it.
Chief executive Rebecca Schiller said there were “moral and legal questions to be asked” of the hospital.
She added the charity was seeking more information to see “if they are infringing women’s rights when they are giving away very very private information”.
She also raised concerns that mothers with poor English may not have read the posters.
Two mothers who have been filmed by the cameras have hit out at the “morally repugnant” TV documentary with one calling for the health trust’s CEO to step down.
This came after pictures emerged of the notices put up at the maternity unit warning that True Vision Productions was filming the documentary for Channel 4.
The signs read: “The Rosie Hospital is hosting a film crew from True Vision Productions who are making a film about complex pregnancies for Channel 4.
“No mums or visitors will be filmed without permission. If you are inadvertently caught on camera but have not been approached for permission, the footage will be edited or blurred post-production.
“Please talk to reception if you have any concerns or call the hospital’s press officer Mark Dwyer on 01223 586730.”
But mothers and health workers have slammed the ‘violation of privacy’.
It is believed three women who had suffered stillbirths had been asked for consent for footage of them to be used in the documentary and all refused.
Mum-of-three Tara Bungard, 38, of Ely, Cambs., who is nine weeks pregnant, attended the unit three weeks ago.
She said: “It’s horrible that’s not the way to go about it.
“I don’t think any couple in the raw moment of grief is going to say that’s fine, please put my raw moment of grief on national television, I don’t think anybody would do that.
“I don’t think this is the right approach, I think perhaps with the benefit of time to have grieved and moved forward and heal a little – that’s the time to talk to parents and for them to through their own volition come forward.”
Mrs Bungard, a soprano for BBC Three Singers, added: “When I was there waiting to be seen I noticed the cameras and quite an obvious microphone hanging down above where the bed is in one of those rooms and at no point were these cameras pointed out to me, no attention was made, no comment was made.
“I did raise it with one of the midwives and said it feels quite intrusive and she agreed.
“My concern about it is that I was in when I was poorly, my baby is fine but I was poorly but if that were other way around.
“I cannot imagine in anyway how it ethically allowed to have those moments filmed and kept.
“They are waiting till you have had awful news and then ask.
“The project needs to be shut because it’s morally repugnant.
“If the idea is to raise awareness of stillbirths then that’s fantastic but I’m really not sure that the way to do it is by preying on people’s grief and asking them to be exposed in the most vulnerable moments in their lives.
“The Rosie needs to be held accountable for even considering being a part of it.”
Becky Talbot works as a doula – a non-medical person who assists a woman before, during, or after childbirth – also spoke out.
She has suffered a stillbirth herself and said three out of four rooms at Clinic 23 of the Rosie Hospital had cameras and microphones being used in the filming.
Women with complications during pregnancy are admitted to the clinic and she said the other room was for women who did not consent to being filmed.
Patients have physical examinations, ultra-sound scans within the delivery unit.
There are two white cameras, which blend in the with other technical equipment, which are situated at the side and back of the rooms.
Ms Talbot claimed midwives were “terrified” to speak about it and said mothers had been distressed by being filmed during “intimate” physical examinations.
She said: “I know that midwives at the Rosie feel on the whole very uncomfortable with this and women are being exploited for profit.
“You can easily miss the cameras.
“It’s absolutely horrifying that women are being exploited at such a sensitive time, a time when they should being looked after and nurtured and comforted to be approached by a TV crew is absolutely horrific.
“As a mother who has actually lost a baby I cannot imagine how awful it is to have that moment when your baby has died shared with the whole world.”
She added: “One of the scenes that keeps coming up is being filmed in a very vulnerable position and knowing that somebody is going to watch that film and you didn’t know it was going to be made.
“And will it be deleted? There’s something very revenge porny about it, what if it gets out, what if somebody’s watching it?”
A mum-of-two and chartered accountant from Ely, Cambs., who wished only to be identified by her first name, Emilia, believed the notices first appeared months ago.
Describing how the incident “violated” her privacy, she said they appeared after she visited the unit during her second trimester around five months ago.
Emilia called for the trust’s CEO Roland Sinker to resign after she and her husband noticed the cameras in a scan room during a visit in her third trimester.
She said: “It’s absolutely bang out of order.
“For us we had a complex pregnancy. It very much felt like someone was sitting there watching gleefully for our pregnancy to go wrong when we were already having a difficult time.”
Calling for the CEO to stand down, she said: “They misjudged the situation awfully and terribly and they have violated the patients’ privacy and I don’t think some one like that should in a position of power and influence in the trust and I do think that they should stand down.
“It feels like the trust are willing to compromise on their duties for care for me.
“An apology is in order. Someone who made that decision should be held accountable.”
True Vision Production was formed in 1995 “to make television that engages the viewer with issues that matter”.
Other films produced by the company are BBC Children in Need special ‘Brought up by Booze’ hosted by Callum Best, Channel 4’s ‘Catching a Killer, the Search for Natalie Hemming’, and ‘Stacey Dooley Investigates: Mums Selling their Kids for Sex’.
The company has won several BAFTAs, RFK Awards and RTS Awards for their documentary films.
True Vision Productions have been contacted for comment.
A spokesman for Channel 4 said: “Patients are made aware that that filming is taking place in parts of the clinic but that no footage of them will be viewed or downloaded in any way without their express permission. There is no covert filming – anyone approached to take part in the programme will have the implications of taking part in filming clearly explained and all contributors have the right to withdraw their consent at any time. Footage is wiped automatically after a few days without any human intervention.
“This is a sensitively-made, observational documentary about complex pregnancies and stillbirths, told from the point of view of parents as well as interviews with leading consultants in the field. The aim of the programme, fully supported by senior medical staff at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, is to demystify stillbirth and remove the taboo surrounding the difficult subject matter.”
A spokesman for Cambridge University Hospitals said: “The Rosie is taking part in a documentary with True Vision Productions and Channel 4 focusing on stillbirth and complex pregnancies.
“We took the decision to participate in the documentary as a direct result of feedback from women who had been through stillbirth and said there was not enough information on this difficult but important issue – that it is seen as a taboo subject.
“Because of the sensitivity of the subject, we established a robust consent process with True Vision to safeguard women who visit Clinic 23. No footage taken by the cameras is ever viewed by anyone without express consent of the patient, and it is automatically deleted after a few days.
“There are signs in the clinic explaining that we are filming and if a patient is uncomfortable with this they can opt to be taken to a room without a camera.
“Stillbirth affects a very small number of women – less than one in 200 – and only those women affected would be approached about possible use of footage. Notices about the filming are displayed in all clinical and public areas and staff are fully briefed about the documentary to answer any questions women may have.”
A spokeswoman for True Vision Productions refused to comment directly and said Channel 4 were responding on their behalf.
A spokesperson for Channel 4 added: “Filming is on-going in parts of the clinic but absolutely no-one can ever view that footage without the express permission of the people filmed and without their permission it is automatically deleted after several days.
“The patients are made aware through prominent notices, with leaflets also available in a number of different languages.
“Hospital staff are encouraged to discuss the filming with anyone who asks about it and it is possible to be seen in a non-filmed room if requested.”