Doctors that Take Selfies with Patients is a Strange Internet Trend that Could Lead to Medical Malpractice Charges
A Malaysian obstetrician has captured news attention with a grotesque picture of herself making the V for Victory gesture while a pregnant woman’s genitals are clear in the background. The image was posted to social media and has gone viral amidst much criticism, calling the doctor unprofessional and claiming that she violated medical ethics. However, this is not the first in a line of “selfies” or other social media images that doctors have posted of themselves with their patients – and if patients or their families find the pictures, they could file a medical malpractice lawsuit.
The “doctor selfie” trend is a disturbing one on Instagram and other social media, to be sure. A now notorious Venezuelan obstetrics student named Daniel Sanchez uses selfies of him delivering babies to brag about his skills and practice – he stated he would “bring kids into the world and reconstruct *****” and “Lady I can deliver your baby but first let me take a selfie.” After the outcry, Sanchez set his Instagram account to private, and offered an apology for the explicit and likely non-consensual pictures, although he defended his selfies by stating that there were no clear genital shots on the images, without apparently understanding that the issue of consent between patient and doctor is extremely important.
The most infamous of these malpractice selfies involved Joan Rivers’s voice doctor. Dr. Gwen Korovin reportedly snapped a quick selfie with the unconscious comedienne last fall mere moments before Rivers suffered a cardiac arrest. The heart attack caused Rivers to slip into a coma, and the legendary funny gal died a week later.
The image raises concern that the ear, nose, and throat specialist wasn’t paying proper attention to her work, a concern compounded because Korovin performed a tissue biopsy during what should have been a routine endoscopy. To unearth the truth, Joan’s daughter Melissa Rivers has filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Korovin. A separate federal investigation found that it was the clinic’s medical director who took the pictures of Korovin and Rivers.
The overall concern about “doctor selfies” works much like the concern over driving selfies – is the doctor paying appropriate attention to the procedure? Or are they wrapped up in other, more personal activities that could compromise the patient’s well-being or health? Even if another doctor takes the picture, removing the lead surgeon’s or doctor’s attention from the procedure could cause a mistake, which could seriously harm the patient or even kill them.
Although the Rivers’ estate’s lawsuit against Korovin also makes other serious medical malpractice claims – including that Korovin was not licensed to work with that practice, that she fled the room rather than resuscitating the patient, and that she performed unnecessary and non-consensual medical work on the patient – the “selfie” certainly does not help the medical malpractice defense. While selfies may seem fun and harmless, or even a way of promoting a medical practice or a doctor’s work, in truth, they can lead to distraction, and could be used as evidence against the medical professional during a lawsuit.