CCTVs, but not necessarily recording, to be required in operating rooms
Despite strong opposition from medical professionals' groups, the National Assembly on Tuesday passed a law that mandates the installation of surveillance cameras in operating rooms where patients undergo surgery while under general anesthesia.
The law, which was introduced in 2015 but languished in legislative deliberations for six years, will go into effect in 2023.
It also makes it obligatory for hospitals to record the proceedings upon request from a patient or guardian, but without audio. Should both the patient or guardian and the medical practitioner provide their consent, audio may also be recorded.
The law will only allow the installation and operation of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras that are not connected to external networks in the operating room.
Under the new legislation, medical practitioners will have the right to deny recording during high-risk or emergency procedures or operations which involve training medical students.
Medical institutions will also be required to establish systems to safeguard the security of the CCTV footage and store the files for a minimum of 30 days. Those who violate the rules by damaging or leaking surgery footage risk up to five years’ imprisonment or a maximum fine of 50 million won ($43,000).
The need for the new law was first raised in 2014 after a spate of incidents involving medical negligence in operating rooms, which included a birthday party, an unlicensed individual performing surgery instead of an actual practitioner and several sexual assault cases on unconscious patients.
However, medical professional associations have protested strongly against the law, saying it treats doctors like criminals and would intimidate practitioners, potentially wreaking negative repercussions on patient health.
“[The law] will destroy doctors’ morale and sense of conviction, leading to a decline in the quality of medical care and ultimately damage to patients’ right to life and health,” said representatives of the Korea Medical Association, the Korea Hospital Association, and the Korean Academy of Medical Sciences at a press conference on Monday, the day before the law’s passage.
“This is an evil law that has no precedent in other countries. The government and the ruling party have finally pushed through a terrible law that regards mostly good medical personnel as potential criminals,” the medical association said in an additional statement on Tuesday after the law was passed.
The association warned that it would take the law to the Constitutional Court.
“The installation of CCTVs in the operating room will hinder doctor trainees and further deepen an aversion to joining the surgical community, which is essential to medical care,” said Park Soo-hyun, a spokesperson for the Korean Medical Association.
“There are already doctors who will not go to essential surgery departments,” he said, out of fear of patient litigation.
On the other hand, the Korea Alliance of Patients Organization expressed its satisfaction with the law on the same day.
The group’s chairman Ahn Ki-jong said, “We have ended a six-year and seven-month debate on the law.
“We welcome the passage of a revised medical law to create an operating room environment where patients feel safe.”
However, he said that the law left room for improvement, pointing to the exceptions contained in the law through which a medical practitioner can cite to refuse consent for filming.
BY MICHAEL LEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]