In May a pair of new parents read a story in the Sydsvenskan newspaper detailing how a 15-year-old student was allowed to partake in a recent c-section operation at Malmö University Hospital.
While the couple had just gone through the same procedure at the same hospital, they still felt confident the incident described in the article couldn’t have been about them as no one from the hospital had informed them of anything like that happening.
“It can’t be us, no one’s told us,” the father thought after reading the article, he told Sydsvenskan recently.
However, on the day of the scheduled delivery, the couple had been introduced to the surgeon who would perform the operation as well as her “assistant”; the 15-year-old.
“I thought it was a medical student practicing patient contact, something that you do early on in your medical training. This is a university hospital so one must be prepared to meet students,” the mother told the paper.
But later on the day the article had been published, the couple received a call from the surgeon who had performed the Cesarean section telling them what had happened.
It turned out that the student, a 15-year-old relative of the surgeon, had been allowed to observe several surgeries as part of a practical work experience component, common in many middle schools in Sweden.
On two occasions the 15-year-old was handed a scalpel, bringing a new dimension to the “hands-on” nature of the unpaid work experience, referred to in Sweden by the acronym prao (praktisk arbetslivsorientering – ‘practical work-life orientation’).
According to the paper, the student had been present during several operations, sometimes as a bystander and sometimes in a more active role. The teenager was present at a delivery where a suction cup was used and at one point examined a patient vaginally in conjunction with her delivery.
In the Sydsvenskan article published in May, the attending doctor’s supervisor Per Ekström said it was regrettable that the teenager had been allowed to take such an active role.
He also confirmed that although the patient had been introduced to the student, she was not aware that the 15-year-old had held the scalpel during her operation and she wasn’t likely to be informed.
“I don’t think it would benefit anyone,” he told the newspaper.
However, the hospital must have had a change of heart because later that day the couple received a call from the surgeon.
“She said she was phoning us on her own accord but we found out later she had been told to call us,” the mother told the paper.
The couple has now finally had a meeting with the hospital about what happened during the delivery which they felt was shoddily handled from beginning to end.
The National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) has also aimed harsh criticism against what happened and the hospital’s hierarchical atmosphere, which made the rest of the medical staff hesitate to question the 15-year-old’s presence in the operation theatre despite rules stating that all present during operations must be over 18.
However, the couple is now trying to put the incident behind them.
“The main thing is that they are OK,” said the father to Sydsvenskan, looking at his wife and daughter.