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Firing, Lawsuit Follow Embarrassing X-ray

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A former registrar at The Christ Hospital in Cincinnati says in a lawsuit that the hospital fired her for reporting that colleagues had improperly shared an embarrassing X-ray of a patient.

The patient had presented at the emergency department with, as the lawsuit describes it, a dildo “that was so far up the patient’s rectum that the patient could not remove the dildo.”

According to the lawsuit, as reported by Courthouse News Service:

Two other Christ Hospital employees (one other registrar and one housekeeper) joined the original registrar and all of them began laughing and mocking the patient, and excitedly talking jokingly about the patient’s condition.

The lawsuit says the plaintiff, Rachel Ellis, “being somewhat naive, had absolutely no idea what a ‘dildo’ was and was unaware of the patient’s medical condition.”

A hospital employee pulled up an X-ray of the patient on a computer, and other employees gathered to see it, “including doctors with absolutely no involvement in this patient’s care, and non-medical staff, including housekeeping staff,” the lawsuit says.

Ellis looked at the image and “was confused and still did not understand what the patient’s condition was, or why this condition would be so sensational and amusing to so many hospital employees,” the lawsuit says.

“Somewhat naive” may be an understatement.

Anyway, according to the lawsuit, Ellis said someone should send her the X-ray “so she could try to understand what was so humorous.” Someone did. When it showed up on her phone, the lawsuit says, she “began realizing the seriousness and nature of the patient’s condition, and the inappropriate behavior of the large crowd of hospital employees involved in taking pictures of the X-rays and laughing about and mocking the patient’s condition.”

The lawsuit says Ellis deleted the picture and, the next morning, reported the incident to Paula Schneider, her direct supervisor. (Schneider is a defendant in the lawsuit, along with the hospital.) Shortly thereafter, the lawsuit says, Schneider called Ellis and told her not to come to work that day, not to discuss the incident with other hospital employees, and not to disclose the patient’s name to anyone.

That was on a Friday. When Ellis reported for work the following Monday, the lawsuit says, she “was immediately terminated from her job, without any explanation whatsoever as to why she was the only one being terminated.” The lawsuit says the hospital also prevented her from getting another job by telling other prospective employers “negative and untrue information about Ms. Ellis’ involvement in the incident (for example, telling potential employers that Ms. Ellis had disclosed Private Health Information, which was completely untrue).”

Related CME seminar (up to 11.5 AMA PRA Category 1 credits™): UCSF Abdominal and Pelvic Imaging: CT/MR/US

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