Photographers Banned By Hospital: Decision Labeled 'Reprehensible'

Photographers Banned By Hospital: Decision Labeled 'Reprehensible'

A prominent hospital in Brisbane, Australia has put an end to any presence of pro photographers during the birth of babies. This has led to outrage among some in the photography community and a petition to end the hospital's stance.

This week, the Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital has both formalized and reiterated its stance that no professional photographers can be present in the operating room while doctors and nurses are working to safely deliver the baby. Explaining the decision, a hospital spokesperson said:

Complications are rare, but can arise very quickly during a birth, so it’s crucial our team can perform their duties with the utmost care and attention, with no other distraction, so they can continue to provide focused care.

However, the decision has been met with outrage, so much so that one woman has organized a petition on change.org in order to reverse the policy. To date, the petition has received more than 10,000 signatures. The creator of the petition, Michelle Palasia, says:

A birth story cannot be documented without the images of your baby entering the world and the emotions experienced by your self and your birth team... To strip families of this powerful tool and leave them with an incomplete story is reprehensible.

But here's where it gets a little murky. According to the hospital spokesperson, fathers are not only allowed to capture the moment a newborn enters the world, but are welcomed to do so should they choose. That's not what Palasia's petition says though. She writes:

This is not just a policy targeted at birth photographers. No photography of your baby entering the world will be permitted...not by your partner, not by your Doula, not by anyone in your birth team!

This quote seems to omit the word "fathers." Whether that's deliberate or not, I don't know, but the hospital seems quite clear in that fathers can take photos in the delivery room, but no one else can.

Personally, I support the hospital's decision. My wife gave birth to our second daughter just eight weeks ago, and there's no way on Earth I wanted to be anywhere near that delivery room, least of all with a camera snap, snap, snapping away inches away from staff as they did their job. Not because I'm squeamish, simply because I wanted 100 percent focus and attention of the doctors and nurses on my wife and their job at hand. The idea of a photographer scurrying hither and thither around the theater room trying to snap the "perfect moment" was something I had absolutely zero interest in and couldn't even countenance, to be honest. The health and safety of my wife and baby were paramount in my thoughts. Nothing else mattered. For the record, my wife felt the same way.

Now, that's just me. Of course there will be varying opinions, and I would love to see a healthy, respectful discussion take place here from all perspectives. What do you think of the hospital's decision and the petition that's followed? I look forward to reading your comments below.

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73 Comments

Mike Kelley's picture

i can see how this would be super annoying and distracting for everyone involved. good decision

robertc's picture

100% agree. I really don't see an issue with this.

Ludwig Hagelstein's picture

and even if a hundred thousand "entiteled" persons would sign this petition, the ultimate go or no-go comes from the hospital, or at least from the operating surgeon in the OR. I really struggle to keep up with the enourmous pile of self righteousness some people seem to cultivate.

michaeljin's picture

Unless there's a C-section going on or some sort of complication, there's no operating surgeon or is there an OR involved and if there was, even the father would not be allowed in there.

Matt Beamish's picture

Fathers are allowed in theatre during delivery, at least in Australia. They're just put in under very controlled circumstances. Usually sat on a stool by mum's head and screened off from the actual delivery process. Can confirm this happened when my wife delivered twins by Caesarean, I was even allowed to take photo's after the op was completed.

michaeljin's picture

I'm going to guess that this varied from hospital to hospital and from region to region. They had me leave the room to give my wife an epidural.

Matt Beamish's picture

In my case epidural was given in a separate pre-op room, not in the actual theatre. I'm sure there are variances from country to country and region to region. Above all else the surgeon always has final say. If he doesn't want you in he can just say no.

Mr Blah's picture

Mothers, photographers and common folk knowing better than actual health workers about what is and isn't distracting during a medical procedures....

God damn people are dumb..

Ludwig Hagelstein's picture

Why would anyone in their right mind have a photographer in an OR ?! I know... storys to be told, but I honestly think a bit of moderation is important, and woul´nt hurt here and there.

michaeljin's picture

You don't give birth in an OR...

Craig Stampfli's picture

An OR would probably be used for a C-Section, however fathers are not allowed in there anyway.

Robert Thompson's picture

Wrong. It depends on the hospital and OB. I was present at two of my children's births that were c-sections and in an OR.

Jonathan Brady's picture

Same here with my first. My second was a VBAC

michaeljin's picture

That's a C-section. A C-section is surgery so of course it's in an OR and I wouldn't call cutting someone open to remove a baby from the womb "giving birth". I would call it what it is: a C-Section. Besides, most births are not C-sections and happen in a delivery room.

Dana Goldstein's picture

Maybe you wouldn't, but I don't know a single WOMAN who has had a c section who would claim she didn't give birth to her child.

michaeljin's picture

My wife tells me to take a break from being an ass for a day.

Merry Christmas.

Elan Govan's picture

I was there, normal really where my daughter was delivered.

liliumva's picture

I have no issues with their decision. When I gave birth to my son, we had some really bad complications happen, and the room filled with staff. I don't think a photographer could have handled that situation without getting in the way of them trying to save the life of my son.

If a family wishes to have a birth photographer there is such a thing called a midwife, at a birthing center, or even at home. Yes, complications can happen there too, so you have to weigh your options. I'd rather hang a newborn shot on my wall, not some moody black and white one of him fresh out of the womb.

Simon Patterson's picture

We had the same thing happen during the birth of our firstborn. I wish a videographer was present to record what really happened, which wasn't what the official doctor's report ended up saying.

Having said that, actually asking someone to photograph a birth is neither my wife's nor my cup of tea. But I don't support banning photography of a birth if other mothers/couples want it.

liliumva's picture

I think they partly are doing it as a cushion from malpractice lawsuits as well.

Simon Patterson's picture

Yep, I'm sure that's in their minds.

michaeljin's picture

I wouldn't even say "partly" here. I'm guessing that the majority of this policy stems from that fear. Frankly speaking, I know enough people working in hospitals to be skeptical of any of this being related to patient concern rather than concern over their own wallets. To the vast majority of the jaded staff and administration, you're just a name on a piece of paper and a well-paying or poorly-paying insurance policy.

Iain Stanley's picture

Yeah in my particular circumstances my wife had a c-section both times. The stress I was under, let alone my poor wife......I can’t even fathom asking a photographer to go in there. Obviously, for practical purposes, a c-section birth is a different kettle of fish but even so, is a photo of that specific moment a child first becomes visible really so important...?

michaeljin's picture

My wife gave birth naturally and due to the restriction on any photo or video taken during the delivery, there's a giant hole in my album between her being in lying on a hospital bed waiting to give birth and suddenly a baby being in her arms. From the standpoint of capturing the story, it's incomplete. Forget taking photos of the baby crowning or something like that. They wouldn't even allow me to take photos of her pushing.

For me, it's important because it was an integral part of the experience that was not captured due to hospital policy. I have it in my own mind, but my wife will not ever know what she looked like during the process (she has very little memory of it at all) nor will my son be able to ever see what his mother went through to bring him into this world.

Sure, she was annoyed when I brought my camera to the hospital, but she's glad that at least I was able to capture a little bit of the story for our memories. Unfortunately, they didn't allow me to capture one of the most special parts of it.

Ariel C's picture

the problem isnt having a photograpoher that absolutly knows how to work in that room without bothering, the problem is ''that'' photographer that doesnt, and one of them annoying and bothering the staff caused this, and all pay.
IMO i agree 100% with the decision, if even 1 of all the hundreds of photographers that have entered **kd it up, its enough to ban all. why risk?

Iain Stanley's picture

My thoughts exactly. Why put a potential risk in there at all?

michaeljin's picture

One could easily argue that an emotional father can be just as much of a liability in terms of panicking or hindering hospital staff from carrying out their duties.

Walt Polley's picture

I photographed the birth of both of my children in the delivery room. One was in 1978, the other in 1982. Coordinated with the staff beforehand. Their main concern was no flash. And this was in the film days.

michaeljin's picture

So let me get this straight: a father taking photographs 5DmkIV isn't a distraction to the medical staff, but a professional photographer taking photographs with a 5DmkIV would be? Someone please explain to me in what world this makes sense.

We're not talking about paparazzi here. If a professional photographer is present in a delivery room, it's because the family wishes for them to be there to capture the event. Just set up strict protocols regarding where the photographer can stand and let them know that they have to immediately follow any orders given by the medical staff in the event of a complication.

Colin Robertson's picture

Presumably the father would get the hell out of the doctors way when told as, again presumably, the father is FAR more concerned with the well being of the baby than any photographer.

michaeljin's picture

Hmm.. emotional parent vs. detached third party. I wonder who would be more likely to keep a level head if something was going wrong. My bet is on the emotionally detached third party.

Iain Stanley's picture

This is a relatively unique situation you’re talking about though. Funnily enough, I own a 5D4 haha! But as Colin above said, if there were complications it’s pretty clear the dad would either:
A) get the hell outta there pronto
B) drop the camera pronto and go to his wife’s aid (in whatever capacity)
Sure, the hypothetical scenario you raise about the father being a pro/skilled photographer does raise some tricky questions but for all the fathers out there in the world, a big, big minority would fall in that category I would think.

michaeljin's picture

At the birth of my son, I had my D810 with me and the hospital allowed me to take a before and after, but not during delivery. It has always bugged me so maybe I'm just a bit close to this particular topic.

Ann Quimby's picture

The word professional can have a wide range of meanings. Could be a guy with decades of experience and top of the line equipment. OTOH, could also be a teenage student trying to practice or a tweaker trying to make some money or a family friend who just bought a camera...

Deleted Account's picture

At the birth of our 3rd son I was present at the start of proceedings but then was asked to leave due to complications. I don't have a problem with this decision at all.

Simon Patterson's picture

I think this would be a sensible policy for a hospital when it came to 3rd party photographers, too. Stay unless the doctors ask them to leave.

Iain Stanley's picture

You could imagine that ‘one’ photographer who insisted on capturing everything.....

michaeljin's picture

Maybe the hospital can have a list of their own approved photographers. It could be another thing that they charge you a boatload for.

Fritz Asuro's picture

The anesthesiologist has a lot on their hands already. The hospital is being reasonable on this one. Health and safety first before anything else!

As a photographer, I believe that not everything is needed to be photographed. Sometimes we just have to be there and be part of the moment.

Iain Stanley's picture

Couldn’t agree more

Shidqi AR's picture

I would agree on this decision. I was at a pediatric rotation, and for some babies with a birth complication, even a minute is crucial, such simple things as the presence fluid in the airway left untreated dictates its survival.

As the quote said "Complications are rare, but can arise very quickly during a birth", it is indeed rare, but when occured, a photographer involved (or even mentioned) in a scene of a baby's death, especially in an emergency setting is the last thing You would want to hear in a medical-related news, both for the medical and photographer community.

Simon Patterson's picture

As a parent, one thing I'd want in the event of a medical emergency is a recording of it. If the medical people have harmed my baby, I'd want to know about it and have evidence of it.

Iain Stanley's picture

Would a photographer be recording it?

michaeljin's picture

They might catch something in their images that would factor into a malpractice suit, which is what I suspect to be the actual reasoning for such a blanket ban.

Deleted Account's picture

They need to get over it. If it’s a blanket ban, it’s not like someone else is stealing their work.

Deleted Account's picture

I agree but for a different reason. What about the rights of the child. Do they want to be photographed coming out of their mother? I see so many c list celebrities who have been out of the public eye, then use the story of their new child to get press attention, abusing the right of their child to privacy, growing up in school and to adulthood, their childhood documented for all to scrutinise. I don’t like social workers get involved because they can cause more problem than they solve (another story) but people should think of their child before they think of themselves. I mean who are they going to shows these photos to anyway?

Iain Stanley's picture

Yes I often wonder about these child ‘Instagram’ stars who are dressed up like they’re little play mannequins for their ‘relevant deficit disorder’ suffering parents....

Deleted Account's picture

Or for 'Influencer' deals based on them dressing up their new doll. Sorry, child.

Iain Stanley's picture

Sadly, social media causes so much undue pressure for young kids these days that most of us never had to deal with as youngsters. Why on earth would you willingly put your kids into the thick of it all just for a few ‘influencer bucks’ (no matter how big those few might become)?

Dan Marchant's picture

You are making a wild generalisation that all people are going to do what c list celebrities do and post online/sell to the Daily Mail Online. Most people are going to keep such photographs private and just use them to embarrass the offspring when they bring home a date.

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