A SURGICAL operation is considered a success if the patient does not lose an organ, a limb, and most especially his life while a number of clamps and scalpels traverse through his sedated body on the table. But what if the patient loses his dignity after the operation? Is the operation still a success?

Indeed, the aftermath of going under the knife is as crucial as its precedent. The surgical team’s reputation cannot be questioned if the patient continues to thrive in “tip-top shape” after excruciating interventions done inside the room. The “tip-top shape” in this presumption encompasses not just all aspects of health but also the well-being of a person as a member of this society.

Unfortunately, Jan-Jan (not his real name) experienced the worst of the outcomes after his operation in the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City. His operation last January 3 sparked controversy after a 2-minute, 54-second video clip showing doctors and nurses making fun of him inside the operating room was posted on YouTube.

Jan-Jan was admitted in the hospital’s operating room to pull out a perfume canister shoved up his rectum. As the operation was progressing, loud cheering and shouting can be heard coming from amused medical practitioners and students. One of the team members even exclaimed “Baby out!” when the canister was removed. Not satisfied, one of the medical staff then opened the perfumed canister and started spraying its contents. A student posted the video on the Internet after recording it in his cellphone.

Good thing the video has since been taken off the audio and video platform. In the latest development on the hospital’s investigation into the incident, three doctors and a nurse are facing administrative charges. But other medical staff and students got off the hook with relatively light penalties.

UST prays for peace

Soon after the issue went on the local headlines, various groups and institutions such as the Philippine Medical Association, the Commission on Human Rights, and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Cebu City chapter began issuing condemnations.

Officials of the hospital say this is just an “isolated case.” I hardly believe so. As a graduate of nursing, I have been rendering hours in the most popular medical institutions within Metro Manila and I have to say, this kind of demeanor is as contagious as the diseases they are trying to treat.

In one of the hospitals where I opted to complete my delivery cases, doctors, midwives, even nurses vehemently shout at mothers who fail to labor properly, even if the mothers were primigravidas. What’s worse is that they even tell these “incompetent mothers” how poor their cooperation and resiliency was during the delivery. If these cases get posted on the Internet, I’m sure the public will go berserk!

In this case, it is important to emphasize confidentiality and privacy policies as well as decorum, behavior, and approach of health care workers. Bioethics tells students that confidentiality and respect for human dignity are very old concepts, reaching back even to the Hippocratic Oath. Respect for the patient should lead to respect for confidentiality. Breaches of confidentiality are disrespectful of individual privacy and autonomy rights.

Jan-Jan’s operation should not have been filmed in the first place and more importantly not posted on the Internet. This is a clear violation of bioethical concepts governing the medical practice. The repercussions of this lapse of judgment welds another stigma on the reputation of Filipino medical practitioners.

Social visions

The primary goal of a medical practitioner is to observe and protect the patient’s health and dignity. When a nurse or a doctor walks in a room to put into action the knowledge and skills he had learned in school, he or she is dealing with a patient’s life and well-being.

Whatever transpires within the patient’s stay in a medical institution is the medical expert’s responsibility, and more so whatever happens after the patient is discharged. Health care workers have an obligation to live up to the patient’s expectations of privacy and to earn the patient’s trust.


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