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Medical research ethics tarnished by scandal involving former justice minister’s daughterTop 10 Medical News ⑤
  • By Kwak Sung-sun
  • Published 2019.12.28 12:12
  • Updated 2019.12.29 11:04
  • comments 0

As an online video claiming that dog dewormer fenbendazole could cure cancer went viral, cancer patients conducted “voluntary clinical trials,” trying the canine treatment on themselves in desperate hope. The medical industry had significant legal issues, including the Constitutional Court’s ruling that the 66-year-old anti-abortion law was unconstitutional. Hospitals suffered the worst shortage of physicians this year. The sudden death of Yoon Han-deok, chief of the National Emergency Medical Center, who died of a heart attack at his office, and a patient’s murder of Lim Se-won, a psychiatrist at Kanguk Samsung Hospital, have cast light on doctors’ overwork and safety issues. Amid the controversy over the appointment of Cho Kuk as the minister of justice, his daughter’s being listed as the lead author in a paper published in a medical journal during her high school time became the center of the controversy. Korea Biomedical Review has compiled the 10 biggest medical stories in 2019. —Ed.

The appointment of Cho Kuk as the minister of justice was one of the biggest issues in Korea, as well as in the medical community due to the suspicious academic career of his daughter.

Cho Kuk as the minister of justice

Cho’s daughter was listed as a lead author of a pathology paper, “eNOS Gene Polymorphisms in Perinatal Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy,” published in the Korean Journal of Pathology. That happened after she worked as a high school intern for two weeks under Dankook University's School of Medicine Professor Chang Young-pyo in 2008.

The medical community questioned her qualification, saying that it was rare for a high school student to participate in a medical paper as a lead author and that the content of the pathology paper was not something a high schooler could comprehend well.

The Korean Medical Association referred Chang to the KMA’s ethics committee, and the Korean Society of Pathologists (KSP) reexamined and withdrew the paper.

The academic scandal led to an audit of the National Assembly’s Health and Welfare Committee.

In the parliamentary audit, KSP Chairman Seo Jeong-wook, who is also a professor of Pathology at the Seoul National University Hospital, said KSP withdrew the paper because Cho’s daughter was improperly listed as a lead author.

Also, it has been found that Cho’s daughter won suspicious scholarships at the Pusan National University’s Graduate School of Medicine, although she flunked two semesters.

Many other issues regarding Cho’s daughter ebbed away as Cho stepped down from his cabinet post. However, the scandal left the medical community with a daunting task of restoring trust in medical research.

After the scandal, professors at the National Cancer Center were found to have put their children’s names as authors of medical journals in an attempt to unfairly boost their academic credentials.

The National Academy of Medicine of Korea released a “public statement on medical research ethics,” emphasizing the conscience and education of researchers and calling for the medical community to have self-reflection.


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