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Point: Rethinking live surgical broadcasts
  1. Yousef Kobeissi1,
  2. Hassan Kobeissi2,3,
  3. David F Kallmes2,3
  1. 1 Harvard Law School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
  2. 2 Department of Radiology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA
  3. 3 Department of Neurologic Surgery, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA
  1. Correspondence to Mr Yousef Kobeissi, Harvard Law School, Cambridge MA 02138, Massachusetts, USA; ykobeissi{at}

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The authors maintain that live surgical broadcasts (LSBs) are unnecessary, risky, and ethically dubious. According to both preliminary data and common-sense ethics, LSBs should be avoided and—where there is pedagogical value—replaced with pre-recorded case demonstrations.

At the core of medical pedagogy is observation. As the adage goes: see one, do one, teach one. From the budding medical student rotating throughout the hospital to the veteran surgeon demonstrating a cutting-edge procedure to a resident, observation is both widespread and effective. We espouse no doubt about the efficacy or legitimacy of observation as a teaching method writ large.

However, many medical conferences misemploy observational pedagogy by broadcasting live cases to rooms of hundreds of attendants. These LSBs typically showcase recently developed techniques or devices and are often sponsored by medical device companies.

As medicine adapts to rapid technological advancement, LSBs are becoming increasingly common at professional conferences. However, that increase has not been equally met with scholarly attention—research about LSBs remains sparse. Nevertheless, numerous societies, both domestic and international, have issued position statements or guidelines on best practices for the performance of LSBs. These include the American Association for Thoracic Surgery, the Royal College of Surgeons of England, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.1–4 While guidelines vary between societies, most include a preference toward pre-recording rather than live broadcast, clear instructions on seeking informed consent, and a variety of ethical considerations.5 In fact, some organizations, such as the US Food and Drug Administration6 and the Japanese Society for Cardiovascular Surgery,7 recommend that the institutional review board of the live surgery facility approve the LSB.

Despite a rise in LSBs at surgical conferences, professional and scholarly discourse regarding the practice remains limited. The authors identify key issues with LSBs which should be reckoned …

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests DFK holds equity in Nested Knowledge, Superior Medical Editors, and Conway Medical, Marblehead Medical and Piraeus Medical. He receives grant support from MicroVention, Medtronic, Balt, and Insera Therapeutics; has served on the Data Safety Monitoring Board for Vesalio; and received royalties from Medtronic.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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