South Jersey woman posts autopsy photos on social media

Brian Taff Image
Wednesday, November 22, 2017
South Jersey woman posts autopsy photos on social media
South Jersey woman posts autopsy photos on social media: Brian Taff reports on Action News at 11 p.m., November 21, 2017

A social media account based in South Jersey is drawing both devoted fans and disgusted critics from across the country. The posts are graphic pictures taken during autopsies and surgeries.

One glimpse around Nicole Angemi's South Jersey home and her passion for her work becomes apparent.

"I'm a pathologist's assistant," Angemi said. "I also work in the morgue doing autopsies and determining cause of death."

It's a job she quite literally takes home. She has organs and tissue in jars, all of it preserved for posterity in places where most people might just display family pictures.

But Angemi isn't just decorating her house with body parts, she's posting them on social media.

Her Instagram account is a wildly popular feed of gruesome pictures that either she's taken or have been sent to her to post.

She calls it educational. Dr. Amber Thacker calls it something else.

"They're just really shocking," Thacker said.

Thacker found the posts not just inappropriate, but also potentially illegal, a violation of trust between provider and patient.

"There is a fine line between education and exploitation of our patients," said Thacker.

Instagram has deleted Angemis' account four separate times, but each time she's started again, confident that by obscuring patient identities she's not breaking any law.

One lawyer we talked to seems to agree.

"Social media has pushed the boundaries because there are no boundaries," said Stuart O' Neal. "Right now there are no boundaries to push."

O'Neal specializes in First Amendment law and said no matter what you think of Angemi's posts, we can all learn something from them, if not what she intended.

"That freedom of speech, that freedom of expression, that First Amendment right also comes with individual responsibility," he said.

First and foremost, your privacy is not always guaranteed. As long as it's not malicious, someone can take your picture in public and post it. You're only entitled to privacy when there's a reasonable expectation of it, like in your home or office.

Most of Angemi's subjects are dead and can't consent, she says. So she protects their privacy for them.

"In the photos you don't know what year it was taken, you don't know the sex, you don't know what country it was taken in," she said. "You don't know anything about the patient."

In the murky world of what's acceptable online, that might be all that's needed.

For now, the only things that may outnumber Angemi's critics are her fans.

"I remember when I hit 10,000 followers, I thought that was huge," said Angemi. "I kind of jokingly said to my husband, 'I'll hit 100,000 followers one day. Watch!' That's my goal."

That goal is now a distant memory Angemi's account now boasts 1.4 million followers. Again, she insists this is about teaching people about death and the physical effects of our decisions in life. If nothing else, she's given birth to a lively debate, not likely to end with this story.