Yesterday, I went to a location shoot at an old hospital in downtown Los Angeles.
The hospital had clearly been condemned at some point. The doors were locked down, windows were shattered or boarded up. Great location when all you need is the interior of a morgue.
The inside was reminiscent of the abandoned insane asylum in the movie "Session 9," and if you've seen that, you already have a feeling for creepy atmosphere. I was there during daylight though, so the creep factor was a little lower.
So, while hanging around in the guts of this dilapidated morgue, I stumbled upon something that's got me feeling queasy even a day later.
It wasn't the prosthetic bodies lined up on the morgue shelves playing dead bodies. It wasn't even the bloodied, burned prosthetic body parts the artists bring to life (or death) with makeup. And it wasn't the wall of freezers or anything else that might typically creep someone out in a morgue--even an out of order morgue.
It wasn't the little girl laughing or the doctor who are rumored to haunt the hospital ... unfortunately, I didn't get to meet them. It wasn't even the "isolation room" which had drawings of embryos, religious symbols and poetry on every available inch of the wall.
No. What I saw, which is still haunting me this morning, was something much more benign than any of that.
What I saw were medical records.
REAL, abandoned medical records of REAL people. Piled high on shelves in a random room in this abandoned hospital--dating back to the 30s--easily accessible by anyone with clearance to be on the property.
Why should I care? Why should I be so affected? These weren't my medical records ... and yet ... I feel so violated by this injustice.
Because these individuals are dead, assuming they are since their records were in the morgue, does that mean their privacy is no longer something to protect?
What if these people aren't even dead? What if these records hold the key to someone's recovery ... or what if they could answer questions in a homicide investigation?
Just whose property are these records anyway? Who is responsible for abandoning them?
More importantly, what am I going to do about this...? I can't let it go!