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[News Focus] Political parties can’t agree on cameras in operating rooms

Opponents say bill could lead to confidentiality breaches, interfere with medical procedures

The labor union of Busan National University Hospital said Wednesday that a surgeon had verbally abused nurses in an operating room and had thrown a surgical knife. The picture shows a surgical knife sticking out of the floor, where nurses say it landed. (Yonhap)
The labor union of Busan National University Hospital said Wednesday that a surgeon had verbally abused nurses in an operating room and had thrown a surgical knife. The picture shows a surgical knife sticking out of the floor, where nurses say it landed. (Yonhap)
A bill to install closed-circuit TVs in operating rooms failed to win a consensus at the National Assembly as the opposition party and the medical community took a cautious stance and called for further discussion.

On Thursday, the National Assembly’s welfare committee met to review a change to the medical law that would have required closed-circuit TVs in operating rooms. It was the fourth review since November last year.

Both the ruling and opposition parties agreed that operating rooms should be filmed only if the patient agreed, and that the videos should be viewed only at the request of courts or investigative agencies.

But they failed to narrow their differences on whether it should be mandatory to install closed-circuit TVs.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare said at the subcommittee meeting that the installation of closed-circuit TVs in operating rooms should be mandatory after a two-year grace period.

But the main opposition People Power Party insisted that closed-circuit TVs should be installed at the entrances to operating rooms at the discretion of hospitals. The party said more discussion was needed over who would pay for the closed-circuit TVs, whether there was any concern about the disclosure of personal information, and whether their presence would prevent medical negligence.

Controversy over illegal activities in operating rooms has been going on for years.

Most recently, a surgeon at Busan National University Hospital threw a surgical knife when nurses made a mistake in the hospital’s central operating room, according to the hospital’s labor union Wednesday. Nurses said the surgical knife flew like a dagger. The union released a photo of a surgical knife sticking out of a floor and said that is how the knife landed.

Last month, an intern at a university hospital in Seoul was accused of sexually assaulting anesthetized women in the operating room. In 2019, another intern at a large hospital in Seoul was accused of sexually assaulting an anesthetized patient.

In 2018, a medical device salesperson operated on a patient on behalf of an orthopedic surgeon in a Busan hospital and the patient died.

Amid continued reports of illegal medical activities, a recent survey showed that public opinion favored the use of closed-circuit TVs in operating rooms.

The survey, carried out by the Korea Society Opinion Institute last month on 1,004 men and women aged 18 or older, showed that 80 percent of the respondents were for the use of closed-circuit TVs in operating rooms.

Opinion is divided between the medical community and groups representing patients.

While patient groups call for their use inside operating rooms to protect patients, doctors say they could prevent medical personnel from playing an active role in medical procedures.

Ahn Ki-jong, head of the Korea Alliance of Patients Organization, said, “About 60 percent of medical institutions had already installed CCTVs in operating rooms according to last year’s survey.”

However, they have failed to prevent proxy surgery and other criminal activities in operating rooms, he said.

The medical community argues that proxy and ghost surgery can be prevented by installing closed-circuit TVs at the entrances to operating rooms and monitoring access to the rooms more carefully.

“Violent crimes, such as sex crimes, often occur not inside the operating room where several medical personnel operate, but for patients who are under anesthesia before or after surgery,” a medical association official said. “We need to set a rule not to leave patients alone before and after surgery.

“Medical staff will not be able to actively engage in medical activities that save people for fear that they will be involved in various lawsuits,” he said. “Putting CCTVs in the operating rooms is like putting shackles on them.”



By Shin Ji-hye (shinjh@heraldcorp.com)
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