Video of jeering doctors blots Philippine medical profession

April 25th, 2008 - 9:39 am ICT by admin  

By John Grafilo
Manila, April 25 (DPA) What a group of surgeons, nurses and interns thought was just another funny case inside the operating room turned out to be a nightmare that has put a big question mark on the ethics and professionalism of the Philippine medical community. Filipinos did not hide their outrage over the rowdy surgery in the central city of Cebu, where medical personnel joked about the misery of a gay patient while the procedure was filmed and later posted on the internet.

In the wake of the scandal, Janette Garin, a congresswoman and doctor, called for the immediate passage of two proposed laws that would impose stricter regulations and stiffer sanctions on erring medical professionals.

The bills, which have faced opposition from medical professionals, have been on the back burner of the congressional agenda for several years.

“The illegal practice of medicine, the unethical practice of medicine and medical malpractice occur simply because some doctors are not worried and not afraid of the sanctions that could be slapped against them under present laws,” she said.

The unauthorised video of the operation, posted on the video-sharing website YouTube since late February, showed more than a dozen people inside the operating room laughing and jeering as the surgeons removed a body spray canister from the man’s backside.

The video was initially dismissed as a hoax until the aggrieved Filipino man came forward earlier in the month and admitted to the media that he was the patient.

The 39-year-old man said the operation was conducted on Jan 3 in the government-run Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Centre in Cebu City, 585 km south of Manila.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque has identified three surgeons, two nurses and 10 other medical staff in the scandal. He said administrative charges would be filed against them.

Duque said their offensive behaviour has not only taken the glory from the success of the novel procedure but also cast doubts on the ethics and professionalism of Filipino doctors and nurses.

“It could have been a very good and ideal case study for people who would like to learn alternative procedures,” he said, noting that the canister was removed without invasive surgery.

Duque explained that the normal procedure would have required the opening of the patient’s abdomen, taking out his intestine and cutting it open to remove the canister.

Instead, the surgeons “directly extracted” the canister from the patient’s rectum, the secretary said.

“It would have been an extremely commendable operation, but because of what they did, the plus factor was lost,” Duque said, adding that it was the first time in the Philippines that such an alternative procedure was performed.

The patient, a florist, admitted that his agony was caused during a drunken night Dec 31 when he paid a man 100 pesos ($2.40) for a night of sex. In his drunken stupor, he insulted his partner and the man retaliated by inserting the spray can into his rectum.

When he woke up, his partner was gone and he was in pain. The patient was initially too embarrassed to seek help but eventually went to the hospital after telling his family.

The victim said he planned to file civil charges against the surgeons and nurses involved in the operation.

Jose Sabile, president of the Philippine Medical Association, said the country’s medical community condemned the incident “in the strongest possible terms”.

“I have seen the video and in my opinion the decorum of the personnel, especially the doctors, is not good, not proper and gives a bad impression to the medical profession,” he said.

Sabile said that his organization would investigate the people involved in the surgery and if found guilty “we can revoke or terminate their membership” which could lead to a reprimand, suspension or revocation of their licenses.

The incident has intensified calls for more stringent measures to regulate the medical practice to avoid abuse, including the installation of closed-circuit television systems to monitor operating rooms.

The Health Alliance for Democracy, a non-governmental organisation, urged medical authorities to act quickly and decisively against the doctors and nurses involved in the scandal “in order to clean up the stain it has placed on Filipino medical ethics”.

Gene Nisperos, secretary general of the group, said the incident cast a bad light on Filipino medical professionals throughout the world and gave the impression that hospital regulations in the country are lax and doctors can act with impunity.

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