Not only the medical community but the entire Korean society is at a loss for words at the beginning of the New Year because of a patient’s stabbing a psychiatrist to death during a medical consultation.
The patient reportedly visited the hospital without a reservation almost at the end of the consultation service. The doctor had little time to escape because he first helped nurses run away, news reports said.
|The drawing of the late psychiatrist Lim Se-won is being shared on the internet with phrases saying, “We commemorate the late Professor Lim. We express anger against a medical environment where murder is unpreventable.”|
Lim Se-won, the psychiatrist at Kangbuk Samsung Hospital, died on Monday after being stabbed with a knife by the patient. Lim initially escaped the consultation room but could not avoid the attack of several stabs in the chest at an alley near the consultation room on the third floor. He was taken to the emergency room immediately and received cardiopulmonary resuscitation. However, the psychiatrist was pronounced dead at around 7:30 p.m.
The medical community called for follow-up measures to investigate the incident thoroughly and prevent a similar tragedy.
“An expert at the forefront of mental health treatment became a victim of a patient’s cruel violence, which was a great shock not only to physicians but to the entire society in the New Year,” the Korean Medical Association said in a statement on Tuesday. “We hope that investigations will reveal the whole incident and the motive of the crime. We also wish to raise awareness about the violence against medical professionals so that this kind of an unfortunate event will not happen.”
The latest incident showed that violent crimes could occur not only in an emergency room but anywhere within a medical institution, the KMA said. It also demonstrated how our society’s perception of violence against doctors is far from what we want to achieve, it added.
The KMA also emphasized the latest case should not serve as an occasion to reinforce misunderstandings about the mentally ill or social prejudice against them.
“Some have raised speculation that the patient’s aggressiveness, not treated adequately, was the cause of the attack but it is not yet clear whether the mental illness of the suspect was the cause,” the KMA said.
The doctor’s group expressed concerns that speculative news reporting or reckless sharing of wrong information on social media could inflate the public’s misunderstandings and prejudices against mental illness.
Korean Neuropsychiatric Association also expressed condolences to Lim's death and vowed to do its best to prevent violence against doctors.
“Psychiatry department should be a place of hope where mentally ill patients overcome the pain and sadness. However, it is never a comfortable place for physicians who have to face the repetition of recurrence and recovery,” KNA said. “Under the Korean mental health care system, psychiatrists and medical staffs should take the risk of an incidence.”
The concerns over the safety of doctors are spreading to the rest of the nation.
Internet users are sharing the photo of Lim to pay tribute to his death.
On Monday, a petitioner demanded the government sternly punish attackers at hospitals and come up with safety measures on the website of the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae.
“Mr. President, many Korean doctors have been under severe threat. There were too many attacks against physicians at emergency rooms in 2018 that the issue is not regarded as a problem anymore. In the end, one doctor lost his life under such circumstance,” the petitioner said.
The petitioner went on to say that hospitals are not only a place for medical professionals work but a place where many patients get treatment and strive to fight against diseases to live.
“Assaulting, threatening, or killing a physician who does his best to treat a patient is equal to putting at risk so many lives of patients who are waiting to be treated,” the petitioner said.
The petitioner urged the government to strongly punish those who attack people in hospitals and to provide safety measures to prevent a similar event.
The online petition drew 19,575 votes as of 7:25 p.m. on Tuesday.