Korean J Anesthesiol Search


Korean J Anesthesiol > Epub ahead of print
DOI: https://doi.org/10.4097/kja.21507    [Epub ahead of print]
Published online March 15, 2022.
Propofol abuse among healthcare workers: an analysis of criminal cases using the database of the Supreme Court of South Korea’s judgments
Hye-Yeon Cho1  , Yoonbin Hwang1  , SuHwan Shin2  , Susie Yoon1,3  , Ho-Jin Lee1,3 
1Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, Seoul National University Hospital, Seoul, Korea
2Department of Medical Law and Ethics, Graduate School, Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea
3Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea
Corresponding author:  Ho-Jin Lee, Tel: 82-2-2072-2467, Fax: 82-2-747-8363, 
Email: 65957@snuh.org
Received: 1 December 2021   • Revised: 12 February 2022   • Accepted: 13 March 2022
Due to its abuse potential, propofol has been classified as a controlled substance since February 2011 in South Korea. Healthcare workers are exposed to propofol abuse considering their easy access to this substance in hospitals. Therefore, we aimed to investigate propofol abuse among healthcare workers through the database of the Supreme Court in South Korea.
We retrospectively analyzed adjudicated criminal cases related to propofol abuse among healthcare workers from January 1, 2013, to December 31, 2020, using the database of the Supreme Court of South Korea’s judgments. We collected the clinical characteristics and punishment-related information of healthcare workers who abused propofol.
Of the 194 cases collected using the search term “propofol,” 20 were included in the final analysis. The most common healthcare workers who abused propofol were nursing aides (n = 15). Among them, 40% (n = 8) of the defendants had previously been punished for substance abuse, and 35% (n = 7) had a history of psychological disease. Of the defendants, 65% (n = 13) self-administered propofol more than twice, and the median number of self-administrations was three. Except for two, the defendants were sentenced to imprisonment, including suspended sentences, and the median values of their duration of prison and probation were nine months and 24 months.
Despite propofol being strongly regulated as a controlled substance in South Korea, its abuse among healthcare workers remains. Healthcare workers should be vigilant against its abuse among healthcare workers.
Key Words: Criminals; Health Personnel; Illicit Drugs; Propofol; Legislation and Jurisprudence; Psychotropic Drugs; Substance Abuse, Intravenous
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