Six lawmakers of the ruling Democratic Party recently held a debate on pushing for an obligatory installation of surveillance cameras at hospital operating rooms to prevent malpractice.

All the debate participants, except for the Korean Medical Association, supported putting closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras at operating rooms. The participants include the Gyeonggi Provincial Medical Center, a patient group, a consumer group, and a legal expert.

Rep. Kim Nam-guk and five other members of the Democratic Party held the debate at the National Assembly on Friday.

Lawmakers of the ruling Democratic Party held a debate to push for mandatory installation of surveillance cameras at hospital operating rooms to prevent malpractice at the National Assembly on Friday.

At the debate, Jeong Il-yong, director of the Gyeonggi Provincial Medical Center, presented the hospital’s experience of operating CCTV cameras in the operating rooms.

To root out illegal practices in operating rooms, the nation needs a mandatory installation of CCTV cameras and enhanced laws, Jeong emphasized.

According to Jeong, Gyeonggi Provincial Medical Center Anseong Hospital performed 1,192 surgeries from October 2018 to April 2019, and physicians in 791 cases agreed on shooting surgical scenes.

From May 2019, the Gyeonggi Provincial Medical Center expanded the CCTV installation to its branch hospitals in Suwon, Uijeongbu, Paju, Icheon, and Pocheon. The hospitals performed 4,958 surgeries and received consent on CCTV recording in 3,309 cases.

“CCTV installation in the operating room does not aim to monitor physicians but help prevent mishaps. I hope a related bill could pass the National Assembly as soon as possible,” said Jeong.

In response to Jeong’s presentation, a patient group, a consumer group, and legal experts supported the surveillance cameras at operating rooms. However, the medical community opposed it.

Ahn Gi-jong, head of the Korea Alliance of Patients Organization, said recording surgery through CCTV must require a patient’s consent, and the recording should not close up a body part of the patient but help identify the operating room’s situation.

Also, the recorded footage should not be open arbitrarily and can be viewed only for the purposes specified in the medical law, he went on to say. In addition to the installation of CCTV in the operating room, there must be measures to prevent medical errors during surgery, he added.

Yoon Myeong, secretary-general of Consumers Korea, said surveillance cameras in the operating room would prevent ghost surgery and protect the patient’s rights.

“Determining whether a patient will record his or her surgical scene is to guarantee the patient’s minimum rights because the patient has to lie on bed unconsciously and entrusts his or her life and body,” she said.

Kang Shin-ha, a lawyer at Sangrock, said in the event when a patient suffers damages due to medical mishaps during surgery, the current civil law places the burden of proving the error on the patient. As Korea has no evidence disclosure rules that mandate the defendant to submit all the evidence in litigation, patients cannot secure evidence because doctors have all the data, he pointed out.

“Under such circumstances, it is almost impossible to prove a causal relationship between the patient’s damage and the doctor’s clinical error,” Kang said. “Introduction of the surveillance cameras in the operating room will complement the lack of evidence disclosure in medical litigation.”

However, Song Myeong-je, external relations director of the KMA, said CCTV recording on the request of the patient excessively violates the physician’s rights and freedom of work because the doctor would feel monitored by the patient.

Putting surveillance cameras will make people treat physicians like potential criminals, undermining the morale of medical professionals, Song added.

Also, CCTVs in operating rooms will worsen trainee doctors’ aversion of departments that perform surgery, leading to the overall downgrade of medical service quality, he went on to say.

Song said the KMA did not forcefully ask member physicians not to install CCTVs in operating rooms. Surgeons who want to install the cameras can do as they wish, he said.

However, the government should not force doctors to install the cameras, he added.

Park Jae-woo, an official at the Healthcare Policy Division of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, said the government was trying to judge various situations to decide the policy direction comprehensively.

According to Park, vague areas regarding the issue are as follows: It is possible to limit the equipment for recording surgery to CCTV or to allow patients’ mobile phones, too; What is the scope of medical incidents that can be resolved with surgery recording; If CCTVs fail to address the medical mishap, then what is the next issue; Will the recording be taken only when the patient wants, or will CCTVs record the entire surgical scene and no one gets the access unless an incident occurs.

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