South Korean lawmakers voted Tuesday to require hospitals to install surveillance cameras in operating rooms after a series of medical accidents involving unqualified personnel replacing surgeons.
With the passage of the bill, South Korea will become the first developed country to require closed-circuit cameras to record surgical procedures.
The urge to have cameras in operating rooms increased after a 2016 case in which surgeons in private clinics were accused of assigning nurses or underqualified doctors to perform procedures, sometimes with fatal consequences.
Kwon Dae-hee, then a university student, died in October 2016 of a haemorrhage after 49 days in a coma following jaw surgery in Seoul, his mother Lee Na-geum, 61, told Reuters.
Lee, who has been holding a one-man protest in front of parliament since January 2018, said her son was traumatized by high school bullying because of his prominent chin, and that he was determined to undergo the 6.5 million won ($5,600) cosmetic surgery.
Lee Na-geum, whose son Kwon Dae-hee died after plastic surgery to the jawline on Sept. 8, 2016, poses for photos during an interview with Reuters at her home in Seoul, South Korea, Aug. 30, 2021. (Reuters/Kim Hong -ji)
Lee received CCTV footage of her son’s surgery, but she said there are hundreds of parents who will never know if their children’s deaths on the operating table were the result of malpractice.
She also said she had watched the seven-and-a-half-hour footage of Kwon’s surgery more than 1,000 times and was able to prove that it was performed in part by an unqualified nursing assistant and a trainee physician, not the chief plastic surgeon. surgeon as promised.
As a result, Kwon lost more than 3.5 liters of blood and died of excessive bleeding.
With the video evidence she collected, Lee sued the hospital and the chief surgeon, who was later found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to three years in prison.
“It’s a medical offense for someone else — ‘a ghost’ — to perform the surgery and not the surgeon hired without the patient’s consent,” Lee said.
“There are so many unfortunate relatives who cannot reveal the truth because they have no physical evidence when a healthy person dies in an operating room.”
Multiple attempts have been made to amend the Medical Services Act to require surveillance cameras, primarily to prevent doctors from delegating surgeries to unlicensed personnel, an act that carries a maximum of five years in prison or a 50 million won ($43,000) fine. stands.
Until now, such efforts had failed due to lobbying by doctors, said Lee, who founded an advocacy group for medical justice and patients’ rights.
The bill has been met with objections from doctors, hospitals and medical groups, including the 140,000-member Korean Medical Association (KMA), which claims that video surveillance will undermine trust in doctors, violate patients’ privacy and discourage doctors from taking risks. save lives.
“We think trust is key in the doctor-patient relationship… the bill undermines doctors from actively recommending methods of treatment and treating patients,” said KMA spokeswoman Park Soo-hyun before the bill was passed.
“Residents have already expressed their intention not to rely on surgical or surgical wards when the cameras are installed in operating rooms, which will lead to a collapse of a vital part of medical care in South Korea.”
Kim Seon-woong, a plastic surgeon at the Main Plastic Surgery Clinic in Cheonan, south of Seoul, said it was time for cameras in South Korean operating theaters as they could prevent a variety of crimes, abuses and accidents.
“I think CCTV in operating rooms can be an opportunity to restore trust between patients and doctors,” he said.
The bill proved to have overwhelming public support. In a June poll by the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission, an independent government agency, the bill received the support of 97.9 percent of 13,959 respondents.