A group of physicians at a hospital in Buenos Aires province have been suspended after taking photographs of themselves during an operation, posing alongside an anaesthetised patient's gaping wound and exposed organs.
Local health officials said Tuesday that a doctor, an anaesthetist, two medical assistants and a nurse had been suspended from work at the San José de Capilla del Señor public hospital, situated in Exaltación de la Cruz disctrict of the city of Capilla del Señor, 90 kilometres northwest of the nation's capital.
The group took the images, which were described in local outlets inaccurately as 'selfies,' in one of the hospital's operating rooms, while a patient – who was under anaesthetic and unconscious – was undergoing abdominal surgery.
The scandal came to light after some of the images were posted on the Instagram account of Dr. Lorena Olguín, the surgeon who carried out the operation. They were quickly downloaded by others and shared across social networks.
Olguín, who specialises in gastroenterology, is seen smiling alongside colleagues as the team, dressed in full surgical gear, pose for a series of photographs. In one of them, some of the group stand alongside the patients abdomen, showing off a gaping wound and the exposed guts of the patient. In another image, one of the medical team leans on the patient's leg in order to squeeze into the frame alongside the rest of the group.
Local health officials said the team had been suspended, pending an investigation that would decide the punishment the individuals involved would face.
\Health secretary of Exaltación de la Cruz, Ricardo Algranati, told the TN news channel that "the doctor has been suspended and the others too, [they] are all under suspension" in an interview. "These are pictures for the holidays, for the beach, but not for the operating room," he added.
Algranati said he was especially angered by the "scandalous" decision to share the photographs online.
"These photographs affect the rights of the patient, who is prostrate and dependent. They affect decorum because it shows [the patient's] organs and the reliability of the hospital, and publishing them is even more scandalous," he said.
"They are all under suspension, the director of the hospital immediately opened an administrative inquiry, which will determine the degree of responsibility for each of those who were involved and the sanctions that will be applied," he added.
Olguín, the head surgeon, apologised for the behaviour in an comments reported by a local website, Capilla Online.
"This has affected me a lot, I offer a public apology to the people of Capilla, for having offended visually them with these images. It was not the intention of any of us that all this would happen," she said.
Explaining what happened, Olguín stressed that she had not taken a selfie and that she had not taken the photographs.
"That day there were several surgeries, photos were taken at random. They talk about selfies, [but] at no time did I take the mobile phone," she said.
"I was operating, they told me 'Photo.' I looked at the camera instinctively, then I liked the images, I uploaded them and all this happened. There is no way to justify it," she added.