Chicago Doctor Allegedly Posted Photos Of Drunk Patient On Social Media

Elena Chernyakova, a model, is suing, claiming the photos are ruining her career.

A former Northwestern University student claims that after she was admitted to an Illinois hospital for extreme intoxication, a doctor there took photos of her and posted them to social media sites with commentary about her condition.

Elena Chernyakova filed suit in the Cook County Circuit Court against Dr. Vinaya Puppala, the Feinberg School of Medicine and the Northwestern Memorial Hospital on Aug. 15, claiming invasion of privacy and infliction of emotional distress. Puppala is a fellow in the Multidisciplinary Pain Medicine Fellowship at Feinberg, which works in conjunction with Northwestern Memorial Hospital, according to court documents.

Chernyakova has the "potential to someday work for Fortune 500 companies, which may now not occur because of said photographs," according to the complaint. Court documents show that she is seeking compensation of over $1.5 million.

The incident allegedly took place this past June, when Chernyakova was transported to the emergency room at Northwestern Memorial Hospital for overconsumption of alcohol, according to the complaint. She was allegedly unconscious for eight hours.

Approximately 15 minutes after she had regained consciousness, Puppala, who was on duty at the time and knew Chernyakova through a mutual friend, visited her hospital room, according to the complaint.

He allegedly asked to view her medical records, and returned several hours later to take photographs of her "while she was on the hospital bed, crying and attached to an IV," according to the complaint. He then posted these photographs on Instagram and Facebook, accompanied by "attached statements of commentary" about Chernyakova's condition, according to the complaint.
Puppala refused to delete the photographs when he was asked to do so by hospital security, according to the complaint.

The complaint alleges that Chernyakova never agreed to be photographed, and was not even in a condition to provide consent. The hospital and Feinberg Medical School "substantially assisted" Puppala in allowing this to happen, according to the complaint.

Chernyakova, according to her personal website, graduated from Northwestern in 2012, and is a freelance model and actress.

In a statement, the Northwestern Memorial Hospital said they were investigating the allegations and will cooperate with authorities but emphasized that Puppala was acting "entirely on his own."

"Any invasion of privacy at the hands of our trusted health personnel or extended care team of training fellows is unacceptable and not indicative of the Patients' First culture of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, which has zero tolerance for exploitation of private health information, including photography," the hospital said in a statement.

Puppala could not be reached for comment.

Rafael Vargas, the attorney who Joel Brodsky, Chernyakova's lawyer, said was representing Puppala, would not confirm that he is representing the doctor.

In addition to Brodsky, Chernyakova is represented by Brad Karlin and Patrycja Rynduch of the Karlin Law Firm LLP.
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The doctor is liable and I hope he pays through the nose and loses his license to practice medicine!

August 28 2013 at 12:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Do not the HIPPA laws apply to this MD?

August 27 2013 at 11:34 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I thought doctors were smart, until now.

August 23 2013 at 7:20 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Holy Hippa violation Batman!!!!!!

August 23 2013 at 6:58 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

She's got a case for sure...I don't know about $1.5 million worth or not. That so called Dr. should be let go, if not lose his license.

August 23 2013 at 3:50 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

he should be fired due to HPAA, I agree. I know someone who was a ward clerk, and said hi to a patient that was admitted that she knew. That's all she did. Fired because she wasnt supposed to acknowledge the patient. The patient didnt even know she was fired until after the fact. She lost a 15 year career!! This doc did SO much more.

August 23 2013 at 2:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to celina.blatt's comment
karl leinfelder

There must be much more to the story than just saying hi to a patient.

August 23 2013 at 3:05 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

The reason for this woman's admission to the hospital is irrevelen! NO private or personal information, images, or healthcare infor can be discussed, shared, or made public without the express WRITTEN permission of the patient, or responsible parties. I am a nurse, and work in homecare with medically fragile children. We are instructed by our company, that we are in NO way to photograph our patients, even if given permission by the parent's, even for our own private viewing, as this is against the federal HIPPA laws that guarantee a patients right to privacy. This Dr, so blatantly ignorned HIPPA laws, and did so while in the employ of this facility, they must bear some liability for his actions. It is the responsibility of the facility to institute proper education for all employees as to the importance of maintaining a patients privacy. Even mistakes made in all innocence can cost dearly, as I once had a coworker discover. She was sued for innocently, yet publicly reviewing a new diagnosis of her patient with another nurse who had cared for her previously.. Unfortunately, when quietly discussing the progress of this patient, and the recent discovery that the patient had a contagious STD, she was unaware that she was overheard by the patient's Mother and Sister in law! Needless to say, after the fallout, it was later discovered that the lady's spouse was not the source of her infection, and that this nurse's casual conversation led to the death of the lady's marraige and relationship with her extended family. This patient sued the hospital and the nurses in question, and she won. So this physician should be stripped of his license and the hospital held in partial fault for not properly educating this individual in maintaining HIPPA. Believe me, as much as most facilities and healthcare companies review HIPPA laws, and their possible negative outcomes.. there is NO way this man made it through the healthcare system without knowing what he was doing was aggregiously wrong. This meanspirited prank will and should probably cost him this license and career. All that time spent studying, all for nothing. Such a shame all the way around. I do wish the girl the very best. She made a horrible mistake, having the whole world aware of it is unfair as the lawsuit indicates, damaging to her personally and professionally. I wish her the best.

August 23 2013 at 1:44 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Yep, HIPPA violation. She wins. Doctor could lose his license.

August 22 2013 at 11:18 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Open and Shut case - She wins!

August 22 2013 at 6:15 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Wonder if she wants cheese with her whine??

August 22 2013 at 1:43 PM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down Reply

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