The Ethics of Live Surgery Broadcasts: NMC Seeks Public Opinion

▴ The Ethics of Live Surgery Broadcasts
The NMC’s initiative to seek public opinion and expert recommendations is a crucial step towards ensuring that patient safety and ethical medical practices are upheld.

The National Medical Commission (NMC) has invited comments from stakeholders and the public regarding the live broadcast of surgical procedures by private hospitals. This request comes amidst growing concerns about the ethical implications and patient safety related to such broadcasts.

Background and Purpose: The NMC’s call for public feedback follows a writ petition filed in the Supreme Court. The petitioner argued that many private hospitals exploit patients by using them as models in live surgery broadcasts, driven by commercial motives. The petition highlighted how these broadcasts often prioritize advertising and professional showmanship over patient safety and ethical medical practice.

Concerns Raised

1. Exploitation of Patients: The primary concern is that patients, particularly those from lower economic backgrounds, are being used for live broadcasts without fully understanding the risks involved. These broadcasts often serve to showcase the skills of surgeons and the capabilities of healthcare facilities, while also promoting medical products.

2. Commercial Motives: The petition points out that various companies and hospitals make substantial profits from these live broadcasts, which can overshadow the genuine educational intent behind them.


3. Risk to Patient Safety: Live broadcasts of surgeries can introduce additional risks to patient safety. Distractions and pressures associated with performing for an audience can potentially compromise the quality of care.

Alternatives Suggested: The NMC notice suggests that pre-recorded surgical videos, which can be edited to meet educational needs, might serve as a safer alternative to live broadcasts. These pre-recorded videos can achieve the same educational objectives without the associated risks of live broadcasts.

Expert Committee and Public Involvement: To address these concerns, the NMC has formed a committee of experts to provide recommendations on the issue. The commission has also sought input from all stakeholders, including healthcare professionals, patients, and the general public. Comments can be submitted within the next 10 days, allowing the committee to make a balanced and informed decision.

Supreme Court Involvement: In October last year, the Supreme Court sought responses from the Centre and other relevant parties regarding the legal and ethical issues raised by live broadcasts of surgical procedures. Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, representing the petitioners, highlighted instances where live broadcasts might have contributed to patient harm, including a reported case of a patient’s death during a live broadcasted surgery.

Ethical Considerations: The ethical debate surrounding live surgery broadcasts hinges on several key points:

1. Informed Consent: Ensuring that patients are fully aware of and consent to their surgeries being broadcast live is crucial. This consent must be obtained without any coercion, especially in cases involving financially disadvantaged patients.

2. Educational Value vs. Commercial Gain: While live broadcasts can have educational benefits, the potential for commercial exploitation must be carefully managed. The primary focus should always be on patient safety and ethical medical practice.


3. Transparency and Accountability: Hospitals and surgeons must be transparent about their motives for broadcasting surgeries. There should be accountability mechanisms in place to ensure that the broadcasts are conducted ethically and safely.

As the NMC reviews public comments and expert recommendations, several potential actions could be taken:

1. Regulations on Live Broadcasts: The NMC might introduce stringent regulations governing the live broadcast of surgical procedures. These could include strict guidelines on obtaining informed consent and ensuring patient safety.

2. Promotion of Pre-recorded Videos: Encouraging the use of pre-recorded, edited videos for educational purposes might be a safer and equally effective alternative.


3. Enhanced Oversight: Increased oversight and monitoring of live broadcasts to ensure they are conducted ethically and do not compromise patient safety.

The debate over the live broadcast of surgical procedures is a complex one, involving ethical, medical, and legal considerations. The NMC’s initiative to seek public opinion and expert recommendations is a crucial step towards ensuring that patient safety and ethical medical practices are upheld.

As stakeholders provide their comments and the expert committee formulates its recommendations, it is hoped that a balanced approach can be found that supports medical education while protecting the rights and safety of patients.

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About the Author


Sunny Parayan

Hey there! I'm Sunny, a passionate writer with a strong interest in the healthcare domain! When I'm not typing on my keyboard, I watch shows and listen to music. I hope that through my work, I can make a positive impact on people's lives by helping them live happier and healthier.

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