Playing ‘Price is Right’-style game, GR doctors post operating room photos online

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Spectrum Health says it has launched an investigation after a group of doctors posted to Instagram photos taken in the operating room that show an organ from one patient and fibroid tissue from another.

One picture showed a doctor posing with a length of fibrous tissue in his hand. It appeared the patient from whom the tissue came was still lying on the operating table.  

A second post showed a physician holding an organ that was removed in a cancer operation.

“The other game we play in the OR is guess that weight,” the poster of the organ picture wrote. “It applies to much more than just babies. As always, ‘Price is Right’ rules apply so if you go over then you’re out!”

Target 8 is not describing the organ further to protect the privacy of the patient from whom it came. We have also blurred the organ and tissue in the pictures, which were fully visible on Instagram.

The page was not officially connected to Spectrum Health. The group responsible for the posts described itself as 35 OB/GYN residents from across the country who are training in their specialty at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids. The doctors-in-training are all considered employees of Spectrum Health.

“We get a little competitive when your… attending (physician) challenges you in morcellation. Longest one wins! Good work,” the person who posted the picture of the fibrous tissue wrote.

Morcellation is a procedure in which doctors mince fibroid tumors, allowing them to remove the tissue from the abdomen by pulling it through a series of tiny incisions.

One person commented on the post of the organ picture, writing “And do you think the patient would appreciate you posting this? Did she agree for her body to be displayed on social media as a part of your ‘game’?”

Target 8 messaged the group of doctors with questions at 1:46 p.m. Friday. By 2:04 p.m., the page had been taken down.  

Spectrum Health sent Target 8 the following statement:

“The privacy of patients and the confidentiality of their medical information is a priority at Spectrum Health. 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. 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.”

Spectrum Health

An advocate for patients said she was “horrified” by the posts.

“Health care is not a game to people, it’s their life,” said Caitlin Donovan of the Patient Advocate Foundation. “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?”

Donovan said the incident was “sad.” 

“Anyone who sees that is going to take a step back and wonder what their doctor is saying about them and thinking about them,” she said. “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.” 

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