NHS blocks sale of graphic surgery video

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The Independent Online
The Department of Health last night obtained an interim injunction preventing the sale of a controversial video which shows NHS operations in graphic detail.

The Video Standards Council is already investigating complaints made by a patients' group about the 50-minute film, Everyday Operations, which features clips from surgeons' training videos, including open heart surgery, and which was due to be released today. The council has been urging stores not to stock the pounds 12.99 video.

After meeting with Department of Health officials, Gerry Malone, a Health minister, obtained the injunction through the Royal Courts of Justice. A hearing is set for Wednesday.

Prior to the injunction being granted, Guy Howland, a spokesman for the Patients' Association, had called for the video's immediate withdrawal, saying the use of the film for commercial purposes went beyond the original scope of the agreement between patient and film-maker. "A number of patients have come into hospital and they have consented to have an operation undertaken upon them," he said. "As part of that they may also have agreed it could be used in the training of surgeons.What they have not agreed to, and it seems quite outrageous to me, is that this material has been used for a home video."

The council believes that the people who are unwittingly featured in the compilation have a case against the producers. "There is a good chance that provisions of the Copyright Act have been prima facie breached," a spokesman said.

The video has a warning triangle and an "18" British Board of Film Classification rating. The cover says, "This video contains scenes you may find disturbing", and, "over twenty brilliantly performed operations are vividly revealed".

The British Medical Association branded the video "deeply distasteful" and said it feared the film might frighten patients out of taking part in future training videos or even of coming forward for surgery at all.

David Donoghue, a spokesman for the video's makers, IMC Video, defended the 50-minute film, claiming it was "serious" and "educational". The company, previously involved in the video Caught in the Act, featuring footage from closed circuit television cameras, and Executions, showing executions, had gained the patients' permission to be filmed, he insisted.

"What we have done is open up something increasingly used by professionals for training and said, 'You the public, you the patients and potential patients, and you who fund the NHS through your taxes, can now actually see what happens in hospitals'," he said. Mr Donoghue denied that the video would attract those seeking voyeuristic excitement.

Dr Vivian Nathanson, head of the British Medical Association's ethics committee said: "We have no problem with people making money from educational material but to make money from frightening people and, perhaps, stopping them from seeking treatment that may help them is clearly distasteful," he said.