By medical reporter Sophie Scott.
Sydney school teacher Breanna (not her real name) checked into a private hospital for routine gynaecological surgery late last year and a few days later, the surgeon rang with the good news that she did not have cancer.
But the doctor from Norwest Private Hospital in Sydney’s north-west had another bombshell.
She told Breanna one of the nurses had taken an explicit photo of her while she was under anaesthetic.
“I felt like my world was exploding. I felt I was in great peril that this photo was going to destroy my life, my career and that my son would find out,” she said.
But what has made her really angry is that there is little she can do to stop it happening to others.
In New South Wales, there is no law protecting patients from having similar photos taken.
“I am an information technology teacher. I know how bad it could get and that the photo could have ended up on the internet and being shared,” she told the ABC.
“The photo was explicit and left nothing to the imagination.”
Under section 91 L of the Crimes Act, it is an offence to photograph or film someone’s private parts for the purpose of obtaining, or enabling another person to obtain sexual arousal or sexual gratification.
But that was not the case in this circumstance.
Breanna’s lawyer, Fiona McLay from Harris Freidman Hyde Page, said there is a serious gap in NSW criminal law.
“Breanna is genuinely concerned that no other patient suffer a similar indignity,” she said.
“The law in NSW needs to brought in line with the law in Victoria and Queensland where it is an offence to take a photo of someone’s genitals without their consent, in circumstances where they could reasonably expect to be afforded privacy.”
The photo was shown to two other nurses in the recovery room, who alerted hospital management.
Nurse still practicing without restrictions.
The nurse was sacked from Norwest private hospital and her behaviour referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council of New South Wales.
It found she had “expressed sincere apologies and remorse for her actions, displayed the requisite degree of insight and level of contrition and has taken steps to improve her practise”.
But the nurse is still practising without restrictions or supervision.
“She now works in another operating theatre in a private hospital in Sydney,” Breanna said.
A spokesman for the hospital said it deeply regretted the incident, which was investigated by the hospital executive and the patient’s doctor.
“The rogue actions of the nurse were a one-off occurrence in the hospital,” a hospital spokesman said.