How To NOT Use a Medical Photo

January 31, 2012 § 7 Comments

This is the official poster for the the 19th Workshop of the International Society for the Study of Vascular Anomalies (ISSVA). What on earth were they thinking?

  • Did the parents of this child agree to their child being used on a poster in this way?
  • Did they know ISSVA would choose a photo were their child looks frightened?
  • Did they know ISSVA would make the poster the shape of their child’s head?
  • Did they know ISSVA would desaturate everything but their child’s hemangiomas?
  • Did they know ISSVA would put text all over their child’s face?
  • Even if they knew and agreed to all of the above, why did ISSVA use the photo like this?

Beside being a bad photo, I find this a very disrespectful use of a medical photograph.

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§ 7 Responses to How To NOT Use a Medical Photo

  • Michael says:

    Those are all very good questions. Did you bother to find out the answers before you published this?

  • Juan Pablo Domecq says:

    Another important question, at least as important than the previous ones, is:
    At the time of the consent, Were ISSVA members in a situation of advantage over the parents, forcing (wittingly or unwittingly) their decision?
    This questions should be make before any other one.

    • Øystein says:


      You are absolutely right.

      In my experience permissions to use or take photos for external use other than strictly medical are often made offhand at the end of a conversation. Patients don’t want to be difficult and say yes to their treating doctor, often also without knowing the specifics of what they have agreed to.

      Permissions should be written, well-informed, revocable and the question should be posed by a person who is, as you say, not in a situation of advantage.

      • Juan Pablo Domecq says:

        I have tons of examples of the same situation and some of them are unfortunately worse than this one… This situation is in everywhere.

        I think that the majority of clinicians and heath workers in general will agree that this practice have to stop but the real issue is How to do it?

  • […] The Sterile Eye blog came up with a very tough case in which the official poster for the the 19th Workshop of the International Society for the Study of Vascular Anomalies (ISSVA) was found to be quite disturbing and Øystein Horgmo raised important questions about the use of this image. […]

  • Penny says:

    the actual website header is so inappropriate that it almost seems like a joke. It is also my opinion that the image/poster is so poorly done that it only serves to represent an insensitivity to the subject and to the patients suffering from this disease. There is an important place for medical photography- a “die-cut” poster shaped like a head, is not one of them. As an artist and mother I am embarrassed by this.

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