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[Exclusive] ‘Medical device salesman assisted surgery, suture at NMC’
  • By Lee Min-ju
  • Published 2018.10.02 11:16
  • Updated 2018.10.02 11:54
  • comments 0

The National Medical Center allegedly allowed a medical device salesman, who had no medical license, to assist a spinal surgery and even suture, a source familiar with the matter told Korea Biomedical Review via e-mail.

According to the informer, the salesman from Medtronic Korea participated in the spinal surgery of a patient, led by an NMC neurosurgeon on Sept. 12.

The photo sent by the informant shows the salesman with a pink scrub cap allegedly assisting the spinal surgery at the National Medical Center, on Sept. 12.

The whistle-blower claimed that the salesman and the neurosurgeon divided surgical parts and operated their own. The state-run hospital has repeatedly performed such illegal surgeries by medical device salespersons for several years, the anonymous source said.

The hospital did not notify the salesman’s surgery assistance to the patient and the guardian, according to the informant. The source added that the hospital allowed such “ghost surgeries” mostly on the homeless, who are often sent from other hospitals to the NMC.

The NMC admitted that the salesman assisted the operation. However, the hospital denied other parts of the source’s claims, saying the neurosurgeon did not divide surgery parts with the salesman. The hospital did not allow ghost surgeries just because they were on the homeless, either, the NMC said.

The salesman participated in the surgery to assist the use of the medical device because he was familiar with the device, the NMC said. It was the neurosurgeon who led and performed the surgery, the hospital added.

“This case is different from ghost surgeries carried out by some plastic surgery clinics in southern Seoul. While the neurosurgeon led the operation, the salesman only helped him use the medical device,” an official at NMC said.

Even if it had been several years since the introduction of the medical device, some surgeons use the equipment a few times only. So, when surgeons are not familiar with the use of a medical device, they sometimes call medical device salespersons for help, the official added.

The neurosurgeon in question also said he could not help but receive the help from the salesman because the hospital’s trainee physicians were understaffed.

“It was such extensive surgery that I performed it only once or twice at the NMC. The spinal surgery is supposed to be supported by many assistants, but our hospital rarely had residents who could help,” the surgeon said. “That is why I asked the salesman to help me cut while holding the equipment.”

He went on to say that the informant’s claims about the salespersons’ surgery assistance on the homeless were a “malicious slander.”

“Many of the patients who come to our hospital are homeless. In the case of this patient, I wanted to refuse the surgery. But I couldn’t ignore the patient who had nowhere else to go and went ahead with the surgery,” he added.


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