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Feature Medicine and the Media

Demystifying surgery live on TV

BMJ 2018; 363 doi: (Published 22 November 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;363:k4910
  1. Greta McLachlan, editorial registrar
  1. The BMJ
  1. gmclachlan{at}

Ethical concerns can be managed, writes Greta McLachlan, and it’s good for the public to see exactly what goes on in NHS operating theatres

On the three evenings of 13-15 November, Channel 5 broadcast live operations from Barts Health NHS Trust in London. Kemal had an aortic valve replacement, Howard a total knee replacement, and Tim a right hemicolectomy.

Live surgical broadcasts are nothing new, but they continue to raise concerns about patient safety and ethics. We’ve been treated to tweeted operations,1 as well as live dissemination by Snapchat,2 radio,3 and virtual reality4—and Channel 4 showed a live colonoscopy in an advertisement for Cancer Research UK.5

Best interests

Ben Challacombe, a consultant urological surgeon at Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospital in London, sits on the committee of the European Association of Urology, which has published guidelines for live broadcasts.6 “At conferences these operations play to packed houses,” he told The BMJ, talking about live surgery …

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