As a general rule, medical students are pretty smart. Medical school admissions are very competitive, after all, and it takes high test scores and pristine grades to get in. It stands to reason that those who do so are of high intelligence.
And then there’s this guy in Venezuela.
A first reported by VICE, it seems that Daniel Sanchez, a Venezuelan medical student or resident (it’s not entirely clear), posted a picture to his now private Instagram account showing himself smirking next to a woman’s vagina as she gave birth. Sanchez, a bastion of charm and class if ever I’ve seen one, appended the comment “Lady I can deliver your baby but first let me take a selfie.” It seems he also boasted that he could “reconstruct pussies” after women had given birth, a statement that makes me want to fly to Caracas and hire a private detective just so I can find him and scream at him in person.
Merriam-Webster doesn’t have enough synonyms for “idiot” to sufficiently describe the depths of my contempt for this catastrophically stupid decision. It is foolishness at its most abject.
Protecting patient privacy is a matter of utmost importance, as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) makes very, very clear. The penalties for HIPAA violations can be incredibly costly, and hospitals generally require employees to complete training in complying with the law. (Employees in my own office are no exception.) The law is so protective of patients’ identifies that it’s probably a violation to post their pictures without specific written consent, even if the patients or their parents mailed them in with the implication that they were to be displayed.
I do not pretend to be an expert in Venezuelan privacy law. It may be that disseminating a photo of your smiling face next to a patient’s genitals is as legal as brushing your teeth there. I certainly hope not, but your guess is as good as mine. (Better, if you happen to be a Venezuelan lawyer.)
But regardless of whether or not it’s a violation of any given country’s laws, this kind of egregiously disrespectful tomfoolery is grossly unprofessional and entirely unacceptable. People’s coverage of this same story also features pictures from another medical student’s and a nursing student’s Instagram pages, the former next to a newborn baby, as well as an allegation that Joan Rivers’s doctor was too busy taking selfies next to her sedated body to notice Rivers’s deteriorating vital signs. While the nursing student’s picture doesn’t seem to include any patients, unless that baby’s parents signed a release, the med student should rethink that photo.
Medical providers on social media should never, ever include any reference to patients’ care that comes remotely close to violating their privacy. Doing otherwise can land you in serious hot water, and rightfully so. Posting pictures without the subject’s explicit permission (and you’d better have it in writing) is a poor decision, regardless of what part of the body you include. Posting a selfie next to a woman’s vagina is an incredibly terrible one.
But honestly, it doesn’t matter how smart you are on paper. If your own common sense didn’t tell you that last part already, you’re too dumb to be a doctor in the first place.