‘Granny cams’ bill advances to House

James Dempsey died in 2014 after authorities say his nurses neglected his calls for help.
James Dempsey died in 2014 after authorities say his nurses neglected his calls for help.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Measure introduced after court ruling favoring cameras

In the wake of a Georgia Supreme Court decision opening the door to “granny cams” in nursing homes, a House committee on Monday approved a bill that would set rules and restrictions for families to place the cameras.

House Bill 605 would set up a process where a resident or family member would have the right to install a camera to monitor a room after disclosing the plan to the senior care home. The camera could not be hidden, and if the resident has a roommate, that person would have to agree to the camera’s installation. The bill also sets out a process for authorizing the camera to be turned off in some scenarios, such as when a resident is being dressed or bathed or when the resident is meeting with a spiritual advisor or attorney.

Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, said she introduced the ”compromise” bill to balance the interests of residents, families and long-term care homes at a time when the court ruling suggested residents could install hidden cameras for security purposes. Cooper said an obvious camera would protect residents. “It is human nature that when you are being watched that you take extra care with what you are doing,” Cooper said.

Some advocates worried, though, that the bill favors the interests of the long-term care industry over the residents and families, given the court ruling. They are especially concerned that staff might turn off the camera inappropriately.

The General Assembly had refused to authorize such cameras in previous legislative sessions. But the Supreme Court of Georgia ruled last year that hidden camera footage capturing a nursing home resident’s final hours was recorded legally and could be used in a criminal case against his caregivers.

WWII veteran James Dempsey was recovering from hip surgery at a nursing home in 2014 when he told his son that “strange things” were taking place at the facility. In response, his son placed a hidden camera in his room. The camera ended up recording what prosecutors say was a crime: nursing staff failing to respond as Dempsey repeatedly pleaded for help, saying he could not breathe. He soon became unresponsive and died.

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