March 16, 2021 -- A group of medical residents in Michigan are under investigation after posting photos on Instagram that showed them holding an organ from one patient and fibroid tissue from another, according NBC affiliate WOOD TV 8.
In one photo, a doctor posed with a length of fibrous tissue in his hand, with the patient still on the operating table. In the other photo, a doctor held an organ that was removed during a cancer operation.
“The other game we play in the OR is guess that weight,” the account, grandrapids_obgyn_residency, wrote in the second post. “It applies to much more than just babies. As always, ‘Price is Right’ rules apply so if you go over then you’re out!”
The group describes itself as 35 obstetrics and gynecology residents who are training in their specialty at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids. Although the page isn’t officially connected to Spectrum Health, the residents are considered employees of the health system.
In the fibrous tissue image, the account posted about morcellation, a procedure that allows doctors to remove uterine fibroid tissue from the abdomen by pulling it through several tiny cuts.
“We get a little competitive when your … attending [doctor] challenges you in morcellation,” the post said. “Longest one wins! Good work.”
Social media users posted shocked reactions to the posts. One user wrote, “And do you think the patient would appreciate you posting this? Did she agree for her body to be displayed on social media as part of your ‘game’?”
The Grand Rapids news station messaged the account on Friday afternoon, and the page was taken down within 20 minutes. Now Spectrum Health, which operates 14 hospitals in western Michigan, is investigating the posts.
“The privacy of patients and the confidentiality of their medical information is a priority at Spectrum Health,” the health system told the news station in a statement.
“We were disappointed to learn that surgical images were posted on an Instagram account used by a group of residents and are taking steps to resolve this issue,” the statement said. “These posts do not follow our code of excellence or our expectations for team member behavior. The Instagram account has been closed and a full investigation is underway.”
It’s not clear which hospital or how many residents were involved with the posts, according to The New York Times. None of the doctors have been identified.
“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,” Arthur Caplan, a professor of medical ethics at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine, told the newspaper.
The social media posts could lead to serious disciplinary action and potential loss of their medical licenses, he said. Many patients consider removed organs or tissue to be part of themselves, and posting a photo on social media with a patient in the frame crossed a line, he said.
“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,” Caplan said.