Rectal Surgery Scandal

Admin, criminal raps poised vs Cebu hospital personnel

May 7, 2008 The Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas has recommended the filing of criminal and administrative charges against seven doctors, four nurses, two clinical instructors, and a nursing aide who were implicated in the operating room scandal at the government-run Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) in Cebu City.

The anti-graft investigators said they found ample grounds to file charges of vilation of Republic Act 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) and grave misconduct against the VSMMC medical personnel who were caught on video laughing while conducting surgery of a 39-year-old gay florist to extract a perfume canister from his rectum last Jan.3. The video recording was made without the consent of the patient.

The footage, which was uploaded on YouTube, a video-sharing internet site, showed the medical personnel in the operating room making jokes and jeering as they performed the procedure.

The Ombudsman identified the accused as Doctors Phillip Leo Arias, Marlowe Parreno, Angelo Linawagan, Alfred Joseph De Leon, Joanne Mae Merilles, Serapio Salazar and Max Joseph Montecillo, registered nurses Isabelita Remulta, Carmenia Sapio, Consuelo Tecling and Ida Sumayang, clinical instructors Ramon Pandaan and a certain A. Opado from Southwestern University, and nursing aide Rosemarie Villareal.

In its recommendation, the Ombudsman-Visayas ruled that the medical staff committed misconduct for unlawful behavior and gross negligence as public officers.

Deputy Ombudsman Pelagio Apostol, head of the anti-graft office in the Visayas, said their fact-finding panel conducted a two-week investigation and assessment of the complaint filed by the patient, whose identity has been withheld, last April 21.

In his complaint, the patient said he suffered humiliation after video of his operation was posted on YouTube.

In his nine-page affidavit, the complainant though did not identify the doctors, nurses and interns involved, but only give reference to a certain Dr. Arias.

Clinical forms and a discharge sheet from the hospital were attached to the complaint prepared by his lawyer Guiller Ceniza.

The patient accused the VSMMC personnel who attended his surgery of violating his rights to privacy and confidentiality and reflecting a poor sense of professionalism.

He cited provisions of RA 4224 (Code of Ethics of the Medical Profession in the Philippines), the Code of Ethics for Registered Nurses, the Hippocratic Oath and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials.

“I strongly believe the doctors and nurses of the Vicente (Sotto) Memorial Medical Center and the hospital itself violated my right to privacy and confidentiality. Without my consent, they took videos of the operation showing my private parts and my unusual and embarassing condition,” he said.

“Instead of observing professional courtesy and giving sympathy to a victim of sexual abuse, the doctors, the nurses and the hospital entertained themselves at my expense, by making fun at my condition; they jeered, laugh, shouted, uttered mischivous statements and cheered on many occasions during the operation; evidently, they were trying to mock and ridicule me,” he added.

CHED Memorandum
Meanwhile, the COmmission on Higher Education (CHED) has prohibited students in medical-related courses from using cellular phones, cameras and video cameras while attending clinical practices, in the aftermath of the Cebu rectal surgery scandal.

In a memorandum, CHED acting chairman Romulo Neri “admonished” all CHED regional directors and heads of private and public colleges and uniersities offering health-related courses to advise their students to “refrain from using” such devices while undertaking practicum or clinical classes.

A copy of the memorandum, dated April 24, was sent to the Department of health (DOH).

In another development, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III called the attention of Multiply, a social neetworking website, on photographs of a pap smear procedure uploaded on the site.

“It has come to our attention that videos/images of medical procedures are being posted on your website without the consent of the patient. We bring to your attention a specific posting of one of your users which publicized the pap smear done by several nursing students which appear to be unknown to the patients,” Duque said in his letter addressed to the president of Multiply.com

The STAR tried to access the link to the account of one Sally Mercado of Batangas but it was no longer available. – by Edu Punay with Sheila Crisostomo/The Philippine STAR

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