A debate is heating up over installing closed-circuit TVs in operating rooms. The ghost surgery by a salesperson working for a medical equipment maker has recently rekindled the calls for installing CCTVs at operating rooms. However, the controversy goes back to 2015 when some patients began to raise an issue with plastic surgeons in southern Seoul areas resorting to ghost surgeries.
|Cho Yun-mi(Representative Communication & Issue)|
“Ghost surgery” occurs when operating surgeons are replaced without the consent of patients after putting the latter under general anesthesia in an operating room. Domestic medical community hushed up the ghost surgery cases years ago, and now they have come to let even unlicensed person operate on behalf of licensed doctors.
Even more shocking was the proxy surgeries by unqualified persons are now being done as a customary practice. The ghost surgeries by salespersons or the latter’s participation in operation as assistants are no longer aberrations by some neighborhood clinics or small hospitals but are being committed by network hospitals and even some tertiary medical institutions, according to whistleblowers.
Most patients feel it difficult and painful that they have to undergo an operation. If these patients cannot be sure about who will operate them – physicians or salespersons – their anger with such a reality is understandable.
Ghost surgery or proxy surgery are apparent frauds that violate basic contract terms, which are the preconditions for appointments and transactions with patients. These crimes are the worse, as the scams are against patients under anesthesia who cannot perceive the situation clearly. If the one party of different service agreements violate contract terms and replace or aggravate goods or services while consumers are unaware, such businesses will not be able to remain operational, facing harsh criticisms and take both civil and criminal responsibility.
Moreover, medical service is an area where a stricter control of qualifications should be maintained. Medical professionals themselves should preserve and promote the quality of their services by putting their self-esteem as experts on the block. No amount of excuses and explanations will justify some doctors abandoning such responsibility, and doctors should not forgive themselves or their colleagues involved in these lamentable acts.
In early September when a patient fell into a brain-dead state at orthopedics in Busan because of proxy surgery by a medical equipment salesperson, Korea Medical Association held out without making any expression of its positions. The doctors’ group might have hoped the scandal will fizzle out soon enough. As the similar accident occurred at National Medical Center recently, however, KMA issued a statement of apology after no shorter than a month has passed. The association vowed to make legal responses by referring its members, who let salesperson, nursing assistants or other disqualified people perform proxy operation, to prosecution and filing complaints against the violators.
This notwithstanding, the association maintains its opposition to introducing CCTVs in operating rooms, which has emerged as an alternative to prevent such violations.
The proposed introduction of CCTV in operating rooms is of course not a complete way to do away with ghost or proxy surgeries. CCTVs in operating rooms may show an overall picture of the places but can hardly film the faces of doctors or patients one by one. The recording can also infringe on the human rights of medical workers in the operating rooms, including doctors, nurses and other staffs. They may also unnecessarily expose parts or all of patients’ bodies or identify their faces, in which case the protection of personal information and other countermeasures might become necessary.
Despite all these problems, the public is for installing CCTVs in the operating rooms. Why? Faced with the shocking reality where doctors let unqualified people do the surgery, the people’s distrust of the medical professionals seems to have reached its peak. This is not a complete and wholly reasonable measure, but the medical community should be ready to do more than that to reduce distrust between patients and doctors.
What is the “freedom in fulfilling medical professionals’ jobs” as claimed by KMA? Whether to install CCTVs in operating rooms and record their surgery is a matter to be decided by patients and consumers who have to lie in bed unconscious, and has nothing to do with the freedom in performing medical workers’ duty. Medical workers receive respect and recognition of society as they put a priority on patients and protect them under any circumstances, while armed with scientific and medical bases and experts’ ethics, don’t they? Today, patients want to install CCTVs in operating rooms and confirm if there are ghost or proxy surgeries during their operation. Doctors should never forget they should take the full responsibility for making people so nervous and desperate.
Will all problems be solved if the installation of CCTVs becomes obligatory in defiance of the opposition of doctors, then? Along with the installation, clear principles and procedures should be established in operating and managing them. Hospitals must win the approvals of patients by all means and see that the manuals on the films’ recording, storage and destruction be prepared and kept. Currently, CCTVs are installed in some operating rooms for controlling narcotics and other purposes. The government and hospitals should find facts first and make comprehensive supplements and run the system according to principles by, for instance, winning patients’ approval.
Cho Yun-mi firstname.lastname@example.org
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