Hospital Films Its Drunk Patients

By Victoria Kim 07/16/13

A controversial alcohol treatment center uses hidden cameras to "educate" people.

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If you saw video of yourself drunk from the night before, would it help you abstain in the future? This is the logic behind a controversial new tactic at an alcohol treatment center in Cardiff, Wales, where drunk patients are now filmed by hidden cameras worn by the staff. After they have recovered, they are given the option to view the footage before it's deleted. Some praise the tactic, which they claim has helped reduce binge drinking in the area. Conrad Eydmann, head of substance misuse strategy and development for Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, says the number of weekend emergency room visits has decreased and the health and safety of the city has improved overall since the center was established. But others criticize the use of hidden cameras, calling it a breach of privacy. "The filming does raise privacy issues as drunk people are vulnerable and will not be in any fit state to give their consent," says Andrew Misell from local charity Alcohol Concern Cymru, although he does believe the scheme could "give youngsters a wake up call." Wayne Parsons, an emergency nurse practitioner, defends the filming; he says it's positive and educational rather than preachy or invasive. "Each individual has the option to view [the video]," he explains. "If they do or don't, it's deleted in front of them—there's no footage at the end of the night. The whole premise is trying to talk to someone and educate them about the dangers if they carry on what they're doing."

But even deleting the videos doesn't make the practice okay, according to Nick Pickles, of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch. "I struggle to see how this kind of filming is even legal," he says. "Under the Data Protection Act there needs to be a pressing need to use surveillance cameras and if you are filming an individual then you should have their permission to do so." Rachel Harris, a 21-year-old Cardiff University student, agrees: "I definitely would not feel comfortable being filmed without any form of consent, especially if I ever found myself in a particularly bad state." Up to 20% of the adult Welsh population admit to regular binge drinking (more than eight drinks at a time for men, six for women) according to a survey by Alcohol Concern Cymru.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr

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