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CNN: South Korea's dangerous ghost doctors are putting plastic surgery patients' lives at risk

Discussion in 'Other Health News and Research' started by cassava7, Apr 11, 2021.

  1. cassava7

    cassava7 Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    [Trigger warning: death]


    This article relates the case of a 24 year old South Korean man who died from a plastic surgery operation to cut his jaw bones. He was operated on not only by the "main" plastic surgeon whom the clinic he underwent surgery at advertised, but also by a substitute doctor who had recently graduated and was not qualified in plastic surgery -- a "ghost doctor". Sadly the surgery was done improperly and he lost a lot of blood. At a point he was even left without medical supervision in the operating room.

    Plastic surgeries in South Korea routinely employ ghost doctors -- "freshly qualified plastic surgeons, dentists, nurses, or, in some cases, medical equipment sales people" -- because the industry is thriving and they can't keep up with the demand. This practice is illegal but the sanctions are weak:

    Under South Korean law, someone who orders or performs an unlicensed medical act is subject to a maximum punishment of five years in prison or a maximum fine of 50 million won ($44,000). If a ghost surgery is performed by a licensed doctor, that could lead to charges of causing harm or fraud. But these crimes are hard to prove -- many substitute doctors don't note down the work they've done and many clinics don't have CCTV cameras. And even once the cases get to court, ghost doctors rarely get heavy penalties, which emboldens clinics to continue with the practice, lawyers say.


    One doctor who asked a nurse to perform eyelid or nose plastic surgeries at least 90 times received only a three-month suspension, according to ruling party lawmaker Kwon Chil-seung's office. Another doctor who ordered a medical device company employee and a nurse to perform at least 58 surgeries on spinal disc patients got a three-month suspension, the office added.​

    The young man's mother was able to get financial compensation and criminal convictions thanks to CCTV footage from the clinic. She is now advocating for a bill that would impose CCTV cameras in all operating rooms, but:

    Doctors are opposed to the bills, arguing they won't be able to work as comfortably knowing they are being watched, and claiming that the cameras would erode trust with patients -- not build it. The Korean Medical Association has publicly opposed the proposed bill mandating CCTV cameras, saying it is an invasion of privacy and could lead to doctors losing concentration during surgery.
    While I understand privacy concerns, this justification from the Korean Medical Association seems to be a weak attempt at preventing doctors from duly being held accountable.
    alktipping, Hutan, nick2155 and 6 others like this.

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