It seems like straightforward common sense: don’t take unauthorized photos of your patients. Yet it’s an issue that continues to arise – even in high profile situations. Today’s cell phones with their built-in cameras seem to pose a temptation that some health care practitioners don’t have the good sense to resist.

In the most recent example, Kristen Johnson, a 27-year nurse who had been employed at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, N.Y., was arrested last year following a 9-month investigation by the Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office. The investigation was launched after Ms Johnson’s colleagues reported that she had sent them inappropriate cellphone photos multiple times. The investigation revealed that Ms Johnson took photos of an unconscious patient’s penis for no legitimate medical reason and then sent the pictures to coworkers. Investigators also found video on Ms Johnson’s phone showing a fellow nurse cleaning a comatose female patient’s gastrointestinal blood clot.

Ms Johnson was originally charged with a felony, but she eventually took a plea, reducing the felony to a misdemeanor charge of disseminating unlawful surveillance pictures. As part of the plea deal, Ms Johnson will serve 3 years of probation and was required to surrender her nursing license. New York’s Education Department announced that it approved the surrender of Ms Johnson’s license this past March. Ms Johnson did not contest the charge that she was morally unfit to practice nursing. 

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