Do the dead have privacy rights? This is as bizarre as it gets! Watch the entire video now!
Law is Stranger than Fiction is a humorous weekly vlog series presented by the Salt Lake City law firm of Richards Brandt Miller Nelson that focuses on the absurd, the outrageous, and the hard-to-imagine aspects of law and the legal system in today’s society. These guys truly couldn’t make this stuff up. To learn more about Richards Brandt Miller Nelson
Barry: [00:07] Good Afternoon, this is Law is Stranger than Fiction. I’m one of your hosts, Barry School.
Steven: [0:12] And I am your other host, Steven Bergman. We are shareholders at the law firm of Richards Brandt Miller Nelson, in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Barry: [0:19] Today we are going to start with a question—do the dead have privacy rights?
Steven: [0:23] Before I answer the question, Barry why are you asking?
Barry: [0:26] Uh, this question comes to the forefront as a result of a recent incident in a Denver hospital, in which five nurses were disciplined for peek-a-boo with a patient both before and after his untimely demise. Evidently, this particular gentleman was very well-endowed. One told the others and then in serially they went to investigate.
Steven: [0:53] Okay so you’re saying this is both, before and after, he died.
Barry: [0:58] Yes
Steven: [0:59] Alright. I’m not even sure I want to know… so before, you mean like, they were literally just going into the guys room and lifting up his robe and looking at him or…?
Barry: [1:06] Apparently so—yes.
Steven: [1:08] And after he was dead, they did the same thing?
Barry: [1:10] Apparently so—unfortunately the answer is yes.
Steven: [1:14] Okay so, before I go on… how did they get got?
Barry: [1:19] A sixth nurse, not participating in these activities, heard them talking and turned them in.
Steven: [1:27] And she was able to figure out what they were talking about based on the dialogue—I assume?
Barry: [1:31] Uh, and the length of the conversation, I think.
Steven: [1:34] Okay, well it was a big topic, what can I say? So, to answer your question, the answer is yes, the dead do have privacy rights. They are entitled to dignity. They are entitled to be treated with care. They are entitled to be treated with respect. And there are a number of statutes in Utah, and virtually every other state, to protect the rights of the dead. Your question raises some other issues though. You said these nurses were disciplined. How were they disciplined?
Barry: [2:01] Well the police were summoned and determined there wasn’t enough information to bring criminal charges. But they were suspended and each got a note put in their file.
Steven: [2:12] Okay, I can only imagine what that note in the file must’ve said. So, it raises a number of employment issues– is that what you’re trying to say?
Barry: [2:18] Yes. Definitely.
Steven: [2:19] Okay, what about retaliation? Did these nurses retaliate against the person that exposed their entertainment scheme?
Barry: [2:28] There’s no evidence to that effect.
Steven: [2:30] Okay. But if you’re an employer and you’ve got employees in situations like this or something else arises—you do have to worry about that. How do you protect an employee who informs you about potentially illegal activities that other employees are doing? You as an employer want to know what’s going on in your company and you want to be protected. Because if your employees do something illegal, you as an employer could potentially be liable for that.
Barry: [2:53] [Nodding his head in agreement] Yep.
Steven: [2:54] So what about liability? Are there liability issues here, with this hospital?
Barry: [2:58] Well undoubtedly.
Steven: [2:59] Okay. I wonder how they protect them against that one. So, and then the other question, of course, how does the individual whose parts were examined… did they disclose to the family?
Barry: [3:13} Apparently not.
Steven: [3:14] Okay, so I’d love to see someone claiming it was their family member tried to figure that one out. Uh, the short answer though is yes, the dead do have privacy rights. And if you’re an employer and you have issues between employees in fighting or one employee’s telling you about illegal activities, potentially illegal activities, another one is doing… you need to talk to qualified council. We at Richards Brandt Miller Nelson have a number of employment law attorneys that can assist you in that regard.