In a perverted twist on the game “The Price Is Right”, several operating room doctors recently posted photos of themselves on Instagram holding surgically removed organs and asked viewers to guess how much each weighed.
The pushback came fast and furiously. Now, the healthcare network in Michigan that employs the doctors says it’s investigating the matter.
A local NBC affiliate got its hands on the unsightly Instagram posts. The station says it intentionally blurred out the photos so viewers wouldn’t see which organs were being shown. The posts were quickly taken down after the station contacted the OR doctors.
Clearly, these providers are still learning the meaning of show vs. tell.
An Impromptu Photo Shoot in the OR
The photos appeared on Instagram with the caption, “The other game we play in the OR is guess that weight. It applies to much more than just babies. As always, ‘Price is Right’ rules apply so if you go over then you’re out!”
In the TV game show “The Price is Right,” contestants have to guess the price tags on valuable items to win prize money. If anyone guesses over, they lose.
None of the doctors or providers involved have been identified. They used the handle @grandrapids_obgyn_residency to post the images, all of which have since been removed.
The clinic is owned and operated by Spectrum Health, which oversees 14 hospitals throughout Western Michigan, including three in Grand Rapids where the incident occurred.
In response to the incident, the health network stated:
“We were shocked and dismayed when we learned that surgical images were posted on an Instagram account not officially connected to Spectrum Health that was used by a group of medical residents. This unacceptable behavior does not in any way reflect our organization, the outstanding professionalism of our medical staff or our resident physicians-in-training.”
The company says it’s still investigating the matter, but hopes to have more answers soon.
“We are actively and comprehensively investigating this unfortunate incident. These posts do not follow our code of excellence, our values or our expectations for team member behavior. We deeply value the trust that our patients have in us, and we work to strengthen this bond every day,” Spectrum Health added.
In one of the photos, a doctor appears to be holding a strand of tissue after completing an operation to remove uterine fibroids, which are benign tumors that can lead to more invasive forms of cancer. The doctor had just completed what’s known as morcellation, a procedure that requires surgeons to use a small spinning blade that slices the tissue to make small incisions.
According to the local news channel that found the posts, the doctors said they would turn the procedure into a competition with the captions, “Longest one wins!” and “Good work.”
What Happens Next?
The providers involved in the incident could face serious disciplinary action, according to Arthur Caplan, a professor of medical ethics at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine.
“It certainly is a serious breach of ethics. There’s absolutely no excuse for turning something that should be serious and treated with respect into a kind of silly carnival,” Caplan said.
One of the photos showed a patient partly visible in the operating room, which further crosses professional and ethical lines. Caplan says some patients think of these organs and tissue as still being a part of them and posting them on social media is a clear violation of their trust.
“We try to explain that a key aspect of professionalism is always respect for the patient and understanding that patients have a strong feeling about their bodies and intimacy,” he said.
According to the news station, one person commented on Instagram, “Do you think the patient would appreciate you posting this?” and, “Did she agree for her body to be displayed on social media as a part of your ‘game’?” before the images were removed.
Caitlin Donovan of the Patient Advocate Foundation was outraged over the post:
“Health care is not a game to people, it’s their life. How do you trust someone who does that? You want to make sure as a patient that you trust your provider. You want to make sure they respect you. If you don’t think your doctor respects you as a person, then how in the world can you trust them with your life?”
“Anyone who sees that is going to take a step back and wonder what their doctor is saying about them and thinking about them. So it extends beyond those people in that picture, and that’s what’s sad about it because really most doctors are thoughtful about the patients they see. They care about their patients. That’s why they go into a caregiving position.”