Photo of exposed patient results in intent to sue against Lee Health

FORT MYERS, Fla. – A former Lee Memorial Hospital patient is planing to sue the facility after a picture of him exposed was taken by an employee, then shared with others.

“At first I didn’t really believe it was me, but then after looking at it really closely, my reaction was like ‘I look like the Michelin Man,'” said Dylan Meracle, the person in the photo.

Meracle was seriously injured following a motorcycle crash in July.

His lost his left arm in the wreck. Both of his legs were broken.

He spent two months at Lee Memorial, including three weeks in an induced coma.

Meracle thought the worst was behind him when he was discharged, but then he received a message from a stranger.

It was a picture of Meracle in the ICU, covered in tubes and wires, swollen, and fully exposed.

“I’m barely covered up,” he said.

The stranger said he received the photo from a friend – a nurse at the hospital.

Meracle thought about contacting Lee Memorial first, but then decided to reach out to an attorney, Carlos Cavenago.

“I was a little concerned that if I went to the hospital that they would try to cover it up,” Meracle said. “I don’t want people to just get fired, but if you’re doing something that’s wrong, it needs to be brought to the attention of the right people.”

Cavenago has notified the hospital of their intent to sue and filed complaints with the Agency for Health Care Administration and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Civil Rights.

“Whomever took this photograph violated HIPAA laws,” Cavenago said. “There was no medical significance to that photo. There was no ruler, there was no wound accuracy, it was just a photo taken by somebody’s phone. It was meant to ridicule.”

Hospital officials said they’ve opened an internal investigation into the incident.

“Hospital policy does not allow employees to use their personal cell phones in patient care areas when on duty, nor are they allowed to use personal cell phones to take photos of patients,” Lee Health said in a statement. “We take these allegations very seriously and will investigate thoroughly. We will take appropriate action when the facts become clear.”

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