SEOUL, Apr. 25 (Korea Bizwire) — A hospital’s prompt acknowledgement of medical malpractice in a procedure conducted on actress Han Ye-seul has sparked debate over the unfair treatment of patients in South Korea.
Han garnered public support and sympathy after reports surfaced that a botched lipoma removal procedure had left her with visible scars, prompting a swift offer of compensation and a public apology from both the Cha Medical Centre in Gangnam and Dr. Lee Ji Hyun, the doctor responsible for her operation.
Last week, Han uploaded pictures of her scar on Instagram, saying, “I’ve fallen victim to medical malpractice during a lipoma removal surgery. It’s been two weeks since I received the surgery, yet the hospital has yet to mention compensation. I feel heartbroken going to the hospital for treatment every day.”
Since then, Han’s name and lipomas have dominated the keyword rankings on search engines. Following growing criticism, her doctor appeared on YouTube to address the medical accident on the famous actress, admitting fault on his part.
However, the Cha Medical Centre is facing addition criticism amid accusations that South Korean hospitals treat patients differently depending on their social status.
“On a rare occasion, a hospital this time has not only admitted fault and apologized in a swift manner, but also explained the medical procedure, details of the accident and discussed compensation. It’s worth thinking whether we would have seen the same attitude if the victim weren’t a celebrity,” the Korea Alliance of Patients Organization said.
In 2017, the Cha Medical Centre responded to a medical accident in a complete opposite way.
During a cesarean section last July, a newborn baby was left with a 2-centimeter long scar on its head. In stark contrast with Han’s case however, it took three months before the hospital issued an official apology, without admitting any fault or medical malpractice.
Some are hopeful however, that medical accidents suffered by high-profile celebrities like Han could lead to the development of a system by which help is provided to victims of medical accidents.
“It is imperative that we create a system through which victims of medical accidents can be offered help when hospitals or doctors acknowledge their fault. We also need legislation that requires medical staff to explain details of accidents and options for compensation with a specific process and terms,” said Ahn Gi-jong, the president of the Korea Alliance of Patients Organization.
Others took to the official website of the presidential office, signing a petition calling for legislation to make it easier for patients to prove that a medical accident has occurred.
The petition also mentioned the unfair treatment of patients, as the petitioner’s spouse has received little to no compensation despite reportedly being a victim of medical malpractice at the same hospital as Han.
Many medical accidents go unreported in South Korea despite the Act on Patient Safety, with fewer than 2 in 10 medical institutions alerted to health authorities.
Among the 188 medical institutions that committed medical malpractice over the last year, only 16.5 percent notified the Korea Institute for Healthcare Accreditation, according to data from the Ministry of Health and Welfare that was submitted to the Health & Welfare Committee this month.
When asked why they hadn’t filed reports, most said it was due to the Patient Safety Act not being obligatory, while others cited a low incidence of medical malpractice.
In the meantime, patients and guardians said negligence was the biggest cause of medical malpractice, while others said a lack of communication between medical staff and patients was to blame.
Hyunsu Yim (firstname.lastname@example.org)