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"My legs were widespread in stirrups. I was unconscious."

What do you do when you can’t trust the medical system, and the law can’t step in?

For one humiliated, violated Sydney teacher, the only solution is to fight to ensure what happened to her can’t happen again.

When Brieana Rose* woke up from general anaesthetic after a simple procedure to check for uterine cancer, she believed all had gone to plan.

That is, until her surgeon told her that while she’d been unconscious with her legs in stirrups, a graphic photo had been taken of her genitals.

“Her words were, ‘You don’t have cancer but something else happened during the operation,'” Brieana recounts. “And she told me that a photograph had been taken, a sexually explicit photo, that the nurse had taken it whilst I was unconscious and showed it to her colleagues.”

privacy laws NSW
A devastated Brieana Rose has had to temporarily give up her job after experiencing “profound” effects following the incident. (Photo: iStock)

While the nurse was dismissed from Norwest Private Hospital after her colleagues reported her to management, she is still practicing in NSW operating theatres as a nurse.

Meanwhile, a devastated Brieana Rose has had to temporarily give up her teaching job after experiencing “profound” effects following the incident.

“I’ve run a range of emotions; disbelief, extreme anger, sadness but more recently I’ve been thinking about how I would ever be able to forgive and forget,” she tells Mamamia. “It’s had a physical effect on me. One of the big reasons why I can’t work is I get these big bouts of vertigo and debilitating nausea.

“When you’re working in schools you’ve got to be able to deal with stress, and I can’t [right now].”

Despite these devastating events, Brieana – to her disbelief – has no legal recourse under the NSW Crimes Act. It’s only an offence to photograph someone’s genitals when it’s for sexual gratification, which was not the case in this circumstance.

“The police can’t lock this woman up. There are simply no laws to cover it,” Brieana says.

The nurse has never apologised directly to Breiana. Nor has she explained her actions, although Brieana has told the ABC that as a “larger woman… [t]o me, it’s obvious she took it to make fun of fat people.”

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privacy laws NSW
“You don’t have cancer but something else happened during the operation.” (Photo: iStock)

And while she’s not seeking financial compensation from the nurse or hospital, Breiana wants to see some changes.

She’s now working tirelessly to raise awareness of the loophole in NSW’s privacy laws, and to change the Crimes Act so the next time something similar happens, there will be criminality attached to those actions.

She met with NSW Attorney General Gabrielle Upton last week to ask her to accept recommendations given in a  recent breach of privacy report, and to review the criminal offences for voyeurism so they are brought into line with those in Victoria and Queensland.

Breiana also urged Ms Upton to ensure health regulatory bodies amend their regulations.

She says it was “a truly excellent meeting,” although she’s not sure if  the state government will take action to criminalize behaviour like the nurse’s anytime soon.

NSW Attorney General Gabrielle Upton. (Photo: Facebook/ Gabrielle Upton)

The most important thing now, Breiana says, is to ensure nobody else has to endure what she’s been through.

“I’m just the tip of the iceberg, there are so many others out there,” she says. “It’s gut-wrenching. I want them to know I’m doing it for them as well as for me.”

And for anyone else who has been through a breach of privacy, Brieana Rose has a message: “Make as much noise as possible, as hard as it is.

“Ask as many questions as you can, write them down, report it to the police as soon as possible and make a complaint to the healthcare complaints. Just make as much noise as you can.”

If you would like to support Brieana’s advocacy work or get in touch, you can reach out via Twitter on @19BrieanaRose or via Facebook here. You can also sign Breiana’s Change.org petition here.

*Name has been changed for privacy reasons

Feature photo: iStock