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Legacy Health sued over employee’s photos of man who died in 2021 fire

Employee reportedly fired for sharing photos of man’s remains, but the victims’ parents “live in fear” photos will surface online
Legacy Emanuel Medical Center on North Graham Street in Portland. | LYNNE TERRY/THE LUND REPORT
May 23, 2023

Legacy Health failed to train and oversee one or more employees who circulated photos of a burn victim’s remains, according to a new federal lawsuit.

The suit, which alleges invasion of privacy, was filed in U.S. District Court in Portland by the parents of Seth Robert Thompson. Thompson jumped from an apartment complex that was ablaze in Northeast Portland on July 4, 2021. He was 31 at the time.

Thompson, who suffered severe burns, was transported to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in North Portland for treatment and died there. According to the suit, “on July 4 and 8, 2021, a Legacy Health employee, or employees, took pictures of Mr. Thompson’s remains and shared them electronically with an individual, or individuals, not involved in Mr. Thompson’s care. The images were not shared for a medical purpose, but for entertainment and amusement, and the taking and/or dissemination of the images plainly violated Seth Robert Thompson’s family’s constitutional rights to control the images of their loved ones’ remains.”

Then, according to the suit, one or more employees sent the photos to “at least one person and likely many others, either directly or indirectly via viral transmission.”

Now the parents, Linda Stricker and Steve Thompson, “live in fear” that one day they will see the images of their son online, according to the suit.

The Oregonian, which first wrote about the new filing, reported that a parent of Thompson’s girlfriend — who also died after jumping from the building — said Legacy told his lawyer that the employee who took the photos was fired and any photos on their cell phone were erased.

Asked for comment, a Legacy Health spokesperson wrote in an email that, “As of December 23, 2021, the individual in question is no longer employed by Legacy Health. At Legacy Health, the safety and protection of our patients is our top priority. Legacy Health has a policy in place that adheres to all HIPAA Privacy laws and regulations to protect individuals’ medical records and other individually identifiable health information. We are unable to comment further on pending litigation.”

This is not the first time an Oregon hospital employee posted workplace images for apparent amusement. Late last year a Salem Health emergency department technician was investigated for posting a video that appeared to mock a patient’s pain. Three weeks after the news broke, the technician no longer was employed there.

You can reach Nick Budnick at [email protected] or at @NickBudnick on Twitter.