1. Mitchell, Patricia MS, RNC, CLNC

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Have you ever given a deposition? The plaintiff attorney is questioning you about a case that happened 5 years ago and you cannot remember the events. He says to you, "Maybe this will help" and starts to play a video of the delivery taken by the child's father. As you watch the video, the events that occurred come back to you, but you're in shock because what you remember is not what is on the screen!!


In my opinion, it is best for institutions, physicians, and nurses to develop policies restricting videotaping in the labor-and-delivery suite until after delivery when the newborn is placed in the mother's arms. Although videotaping a child's birth presents a rare chance to capture a landmark family event, it must be remembered that health-care providers, both physicians and nurses, are supporting cast members in these videos. Professionals must be concerned about potential legal risks, as well as the family's preference for having pictures. John Nelson, MD, an obstetrician and president of the American Medical Association, expressed a common concern of many American obstetricians, "What once used to be really fun and warm and cozy[horizontal ellipsis]is now a potential nail in the coffin from a liability perspective" (KOMO TV, 2005).


Events during the labor-and-delivery process are unpredictable and may require rapid responses from the entire health team. During birth, care providers communicate quickly and incompletely. Although providers might use shorthand phrases that each of them understand, this same language may contribute to misperceptions of events for those viewing the video later. Although communication among the healthcare providers may appear normal, conversations can be taken out of context. A videotape of birth becomes part of the medical record and part of legal discovery, usually considered evidence at trial. Although we hate to think this could happen, it is possible that subsequent editing and manipulation of a birth video may falsely give the impression that there was negligence or malpractice. Delivery videos and interviews with staff by what appears to be a friendly father in the L&D may ultimately turn into a future litigation (Eitel, Yankowitz, & Ely, 1998).


In my opinion, it is best for institutions, physicians, and nurses to develop policies restricting videotaping until after delivery when the newborn is placed in the mother's arms.


The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG, 2000) issued an opinion about recording of births in 1998. This was supported by Dr. Larry Veltman, ACOG member and chairman of the committee on professional liability, who stated, "While doctors' preferences still vary, the tendency is to move toward less and less ability to videotape" (KOMO TV, 2005).


If videotaping is allowed, clear procedures and polices should be established for its use. Everyone, including nurses, physicians, and support personnel who will be recorded either by video or audio, should be asked their permission to do so. Documentation should be placed in the medical record stating that the birth was videotaped.


In my opinion, videotaping takes away from the "natural" process of birth and increases the risk of institutional liability exposure. Isn't the safety of the mother and newborn the primary concern, not whether we have to "act" in front of a camera and distance ourselves from the birth process in fear of litigation? Today's audio and video technology reframes the memories of labor and birth, and I therefore believe that videos of childbirth should be significantly restricted.




1.American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2000). ACOG Committee Opinion (p. 207). Washington, DC: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. [Context Link]


2.Eitel, D. R., Yankowitz, J., & Ely, J. (1999). Legal Implications of Birth Videos. Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey, 54 (1), 22-24. [Context Link]


3.KOMO TV News Service. (2005). Videotaping Baby's Birth to Become Thing of the Past? Seattle Washington, March 21, 2005. Retrieved July 31, 2005, from [Context Link]