Blood poisoning in Gangnam dermatologist clinic triggered by ‘contaminated propofol’

By Claire Lee
  • Published : May 22, 2018 - 18:22
  • Updated : May 22, 2018 - 18:23

The multiple sepsis cases at a dermatologist clinic in southern Seoul were caused by contaminated propofol, which the clinic was using in higher than usual dosages, according to health authorities.

The Korea Medical Association, the country’s largest body of medical doctors, told The Korea Herald that it does not intend to comment on the specific case.

The organization, however, has been fiercely protesting against the authorities’ decision to criminally charge three medical professionals accused of medical negligence that they believe have led to the deaths of four newborns at a hospital in Seoul. The newborns also died of sepsis. 

Authorities believe the babies were infected by contaminated injections.

The recent cases at the Gangnam clinic is raising public concern over sanitary and safety regulations on medical facilities, including intensive care units. 
Inside the dermatologist clinic where 20 people were diagnosed with sepsis after being treated. (Yonhap)

Earlier this month, 20 patients of the southern Seoul clinic were transferred to nearby hospitals for symptoms of blood poisoning after receiving treatment under propofol anesthesia. 

According to the office of Rep. Jung Choun-sook, the clinic was fined 3 million won ($2,700) for placing liquid propofol in a refrigerator without any proper locking device, back in 2016.

Jung’s office also revealed earlier this week that the clinic had been using propofol 14 times more often than the average amount used by all dermatologist clinics nationwide, from 2015 to March this year.

Propofol has been a highly controversial drug in South Korea. The drug, also blamed in the death of US pop icon Michael Jackson, is known to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation.  

It has been reported that the drug is abused by local plastic surgery practices and dermatologists, where the drug is often used on patients who do not require sedation.

In 2013, three Korean actresses were handed suspended jail terms for abusing the drug for “non-medical purposes.”

Meanwhile, the KMA has been claiming that the deaths of the four newborns at a Seoul hospital were partially caused by the current National Health Insurance system which they believe is responsible for understaffed hospitals which often cause safety concerns at medical facilities nationwide. 

A lot of cosmetic treatments, however, are currently not covered by the National Health Insurance in Korea.

By Claire Lee (