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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74 Comments

Mike Kelley's picture

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

Robert Callahan'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.

Michael Jin'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.

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.

Michael Jin'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.

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.

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.

Michael Jin's picture

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

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

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

Michael Jin'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.

Michael Jin'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.

William Howell's picture

Wait... I didn’t even know this was a thing? I’ve heard of photographers taking pictures of the newborn, after the birth, but never during!

Crystal Johnson'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.

Crystal Johnson'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.

Michael Jin'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...?

Michael Jin'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?

Michael Jin'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.

Michael Jin'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.

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