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Doctors who took selfie with corpse may face ethics panel

Feb 09,2017
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Five doctors pose in front of a cadaver during a workshop hosted by the Catholic University of Korea Seoul St. Mary's Hospital in Seocho District, southern Seoul, last Saturday. The photo, initially uploaded by one of the doctors on Instagram, ignited an online debate on medical ethics. [ONLINE SCREEN CAPTURE]
An Instagram post that featured five happy doctors in surgery gowns will be the latest focus of an ethics panel at the Korean Medical Association (KMA) as the country's largest physicians' group acted on Tuesday to end a viral controversy that the photo sparked online.

The doctors, wearing an air of accomplishment, were posing right behind the feet of a cadaver intended for dissection. A doctor who appears to have been among the group recently uploaded the picture on his personal Instagram account and wrote: "Saturday cadaver workshop. Very informative … and stimulating."

The picture landed on an online community group Tuesday, instantly setting off a public debate on medical ethics. A spokesperson from the KMA said the case will be sent to an ethics committee in the association as soon as they figure out who the doctors in the photo are.

If the committee finds them guilty of injuring the dignity of the medical profession, the heaviest penalty they could get is a suspension of their professional licenses.

The Catholic University of Korea Seoul St. Mary's Hospital in Seocho District, southern Seoul, conceded in a statement that the photo was taken at their institute last Saturday during a foot-related workshop, which included an anatomy session.

The hospital identified the five people as one professor of Inha University Hospital in Incheon, who led the class, and four doctors from other hospitals who participated as students. The Catholic University of Korea Seoul St. Mary's denied any involvement, however, saying the doctors hadn't received permission from them to take the picture.

"It's unheard of to take a 'commemorative photo' in front of a cadaver," said Uhm Chang-sub, a professor at Korea University College of Medicine, adding that the transgression would be "totally beyond medical ethics rules."

Another medical professor who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the Catholic University of Korea Seoul St. Mary's Hospital wasn't entirely exempt from blame.

"The doctors were clearly wrong here, but the hospital shares a great part of the blunder because it failed to block them beforehand," he said.


BY JUNG JONG-HOON [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]