Cadaver photo comes back to haunt resident

February 2, 2010 2:55:06 PM PST
A medical school on Long Island is making changes after a photo of a student posing with a cadaver was posted online. The doctor who took the photo is apologizing, but Stony Brook University Medical Center says it is creating guidelines on social networking posts after the photo showed up on Facebook.

The picture that surfaced over the weekend stunned the Stony Brook community. A medical school student posing thumbs up, next to a cadaver, with nothing blurred out.

"I think it's pretty insulting to the families," one student said. "They shouldn't play around with someone's feelings."

The picture is the work of Erica Katz, a recent med school graduate, now an emergency room resident at the University Medical Center. She's admitted to taking the picture, of classmate Aaron Hartman, more than four years ago, posting it to Facebook, then forgetting about it.

In a statement to her colleagues, Katz apologized for her unprofessionalism, saying, "It was absolutely and unquestionably egregious, idiotic, disrespectful and thoughtless for me to ever have taken that picture. And exponentially worse to have posted it on Facebook."

Up until now, the university's medical school had no policy regarding social media.

"Ignorance is no defense," Andrew Hazen said.

Hazen is an expert in social networking and counsels companies to have clear, written guidelines on what's acceptable and what isn't in the brave new world of Facebook. He calls this case a perfect example of how your past can come back to haunt you, thanks to the Internet.

"What you've done or what's up there or photos tagged, just think twice," Hazen said. "It's always Monday morning quarterback, but have sound judgment before you do something, just think twice."

A university spokesperson says the medical school is now formulating a social media policy and has banned all picture taking in anatomy lab. Officials are also is considering disciplinary action against Katz, who's now a doctor there.