You know those faceless before-and-after plastic surgery photos that surgeons post on their websites to advertise how skilled they are at breast augmentation or liposuction or what have you? Well, thanks to a bunch of confused people who don't understand how the internet works, tons of women are finding that images of their naked breasts show up in Google searches.
Ten St. Louis area women are suing Dr. Michele Koo for negligence after learning — sometimes through other people who had run across their photos (oy, imagine making/receiving that awkward phone call) — that anyone who searches their name online will be rewarded with their before-and-after boob job shots. One lawyer who is representing a number of patients said he knows of more than 30 women whose faceless photos were put on Koo's website without their consent.
It's not that Koo has devious intentions; she just wanted to show off her handiwork. But whoever uploaded the photos to her site didn't think to remove patients' names from computerized picture file information. When full names are embedded in that info, they can end up displayed next to photos online, and your grandmother might get a surprise when she's Googling (Ask Jeevesing?) your name to show all of her friends your Flickr photostream.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch wisely assumed this wasn't a St. Louis-specific issue and did some digging; turns out that multiple doctors' websites post patient pictures, names and the procedures they paid for, and that not all of the patients are so pleased about that:
One Florida woman replied with an expletive when informed that a search of her name in Google Images would bring up before-and-after pictures.
"I didn't realize my picture was up, even," she said.
Later, through tears, she said she hoped her pictures would be quickly removed "because I'm pretty horrified about it. And I'm horrified for other women, too."
In response, everyone seems to be embarrassed that they're so bad at the internet and is trying to blame everyone else: Koo's lawyers say MedNet, the company that runs her website, failed to maintain Koo's site in a "competent and professional manner," and MedNet's chief executive officer says all doctors should be responsible for their own web content.
Legally, it's tricky, because patients usually sign confidentiality waivers that say photos, videos or case histories may be used by their doctor or the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery in journals, books, presentations or websites "for the purpose of informing the medical profession or the general public." But the waivers often also say patients will remain anonymous.
Should surgeons, their staff, and/or larger health care provider management companies like MedNet be able to use ignorance as an excuse? Perhaps; failing to understand how photo file info works lies somewhere between gif-making and that thing my mom does when she tags herself in my Facebook photos because she thinks that implies she "Likes" them on the web savvy-spectrum. Now that things have been cleared up — DON'T put patients' names in that .jpg! — there shouldn't be any problems going forward. But medical website moderators better make haste to remedy the photos that are already up there, because former patients are (understandably) pissed and feeling violated.
Women sue surgeon after she puts their breasts on the Web [St. Louis Post Dispatch]
Image byCandyBox Images/.Shutterstock.