A renowned brain surgeon was warned on Friday by a top Australian medical body that he risked turning his work into a "spectator sport" by offering people a chance to watch him operate to raise money for charity.
Sydney-based neurosurgeon Charlie Teo said he auctioned a day in his company as a prize several times a year to raise money for cancer research. The winner would visit patients with him and possibly watch him perform surgery.
AdvertisementThe Royal Australasian College of Surgeons said it was against the idea.
"We're not in favour of selling seats for surgery. We are not in favour of non-medical people being in an operating room just for the sake of viewing," said John Quinn, the college's executive director of surgical affairs.
"It does raise ethical problems about spectator sport if your like, about the ethical issues of confidentiality and privacy and the ethical issue of selling seats for public viewing."
Quinn said the days of surgeons performing before viewing galleries were long gone, with video technology now providing the best means of capturing live surgery for teaching.
He said allowing non-medical people -- who would not be bound by the codes of conduct that apply to doctors and nurses -- into an operating theatre raised issues about patient confidentiality and privacy.
"They have to wear theatre gear but that doesn't mean they are attuned to what is going to happen," Quinn told AFP. "They might not be able to cope with that, they might faint.
"The more people in the operating room, the greater the chance of infection occurring and the ability to just come in and almost be a voyeur, and pay to be a voyeur, is ethically not very good."
Speaking to ABC radio, Teo said the viewings were conducted under strict hospital protocols that prevented the person from being close to the patient as any incisions were being made.
The person, usually a student interested in a career in medicine, watched the incisions on a video screen in the corner of the room, he said.
He said he took the ethical arguments very seriously, adding "it would be terrible if someone offered this item and patient care were to be compromised".
But he said his motivation was raising awareness about cancer.
"The reason I do it is for the greater good of the community," he told the ABC. "To try and tell people brain cancer is not just a name or a disease... this personal experience allows people to see that cancer affects you and me."