Paramedics film heart attack patients secretly

The study has raised fears about patients' consent. Picture: Greg Macvean
The study has raised fears about patients' consent. Picture: Greg Macvean
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PARAMEDICS are secretly filming patients suffering heart attacks as part of a controversial research project headed by Edinburgh University.

They have been wearing miniature chest cameras a to record what happens when patients suffering cardiac arrests are resuscitated.

The hidden cameras are being worn by a team of 12 ambulance personnel in Edinburgh.

But despite assurances from the Scottish Ambulance Service that strict measures are in place to ensure the footage is seen only by those involved in the research, it has attracted controversy.

The pilot study, which may be rolled out, claims what has been captured is already helping save lives.

However, concern has been expressed that the public were not informed about the filming, which started at the end of last summer, and patients are unable to give their consent because they are dangerously ill.

Jackie Baillie, health spokeswoman for Scottish Labour, said: “I am surprised the ambulance service has chosen to take an approach of secrecy with this. I welcome research and training which will improve lifesaving chances for people who suffer heart attacks. But for there to be no knowledge of filming, no consent sought and no transparency is simply unacceptable.

“At one of the most upsetting, vulnerable and private moments of a person’s life, we must have respect for both the privacy of the patient and their next of kin. Before such programmes are introduced in the future, we must ensure people know what is happening”.

One of Scotland’s leading human rights lawyers said that while there was an issue of consent and a potential breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, such arguments would be difficult to sustain in context of the potential benefits of the scheme.

Advocate Niall McCluskey said: “There are consent issues and if this isn’t provided you could say there’s a breach of article eight and the right to a private life. But that’s never absolute and has to be weighed against other factors.

“If this scheme results in advances in cardiac health care it is difficult to see how this could be outweighed, or to argue against the benefits.”

Details of the project, conducted in collaboration with Edinburgh University, are yet to be released, but it involves testing a mechanical resuscitation device on patients

An ambulance service spokesman said the footage was fully encrypted on the camera and could only be viewed on one specific computer. He said patients could not be identified.