On Dec. 22, 2021, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed “Esther’s Law,” allowing long-term care residents to install and use video cameras and recording devices in their rooms. The law is named for Esther “Mitzi” Piskor, who was a victim of elder abuse at a nursing home in Cleveland. Esther’s Law is intended to combat elder abuse and neglect and will likely lead to increased enforcement actions against Ohio nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Ohio long-term care facilities should be sure to familiarize themselves with the law to ensure compliance and avoid potential claims.
Under the law, long-term care facilities must have a prescribed form the resident must sign in order to authorize the installation and use of the monitoring device. Only the resident, the resident’s guardian, or the resident’s attorney-in-fact (as designated by a durable power of attorney for healthcare) may authorize the use of the monitoring device and must also cover the costs of any installation, maintenance, and removal.
If the resident requesting the use of the monitoring device shares a room with another resident, they must obtain the consent of the other resident before installing the device. If the other resident refuses to consent to the use of the monitoring device, the long-term care facility is required to make a reasonable attempt to accommodate the resident requesting the monitoring device, such as moving the resident to another room. Any resident with a monitoring device in their room can withdraw their consent at any time.
The long-term care facility may post a notice at the entrance of the resident’s room alerting staff and/or visitors that the room is under surveillance. However, anyone besides the resident who tampers or obstructs the monitoring device shall be guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor. Only the resident, the resident’s guardian or attorney-in-fact, or law enforcement are permitted to view or listen to the monitoring device, without the resident’s prior authorization.
Esther’s Law is expected to go into effect in late March 2022. Ohio long-term care facilities should develop policies and procedures to address this new development and prepare the required authorization form consistent with the law. For assistance developing policies and authorization forms, please contact Sydney Pahren or a Dinsmore health care attorney.