Doctors pose for a photo next to a patient in an operating theater at Fengcheng Hospital in August 2014.

Story highlights

Chinese doctors have been punished for taking pictures with unconscious patients

They have come under fire on social media, sparking the hashtag "surgery selfie"

The local health bureau has reprimanded medical staff and imposed fines

CNN  — 

Senior executives and a team of medical staff from a Chinese hospital in the northwestern province of Shaanxi have been punished for taking group photos next to apparently unconscious patients after surgery, state media reported on Monday.

A series of photos recently circulated on Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblogging site, shows Chinese doctors and nurses decked in scrubs, posing with reportedly unconscious patients on the operating table in the operating theater.

A man makes a V-sign in one of the happy snaps, while other doctors are seen leaning over the patient mid-procedure.

The Xi’an Bureau of Public Health has taken action for the photos taken in August this year, removing three top executives from administrative duties at the privately-run Fengcheng Hospital, reported Xinhua News Agency.

The other staff pictured in the photos have been reprimanded and docked three months’ pay.

The hospital issued a public statement and apology, explaining that the photos were taken to commemorate the last day that the operating theater was in use, before it closed down in favor of new facilities.

Doctors are pictured linking arms with each other in the operating theater.

“Our staff members have neglected the possible negative consequences of their actions, we will undergo an in depth review of the incident,” the statement reads.

The photos have triggered a backlash on China’s microblogging platforms. Bloggers have taken to social media to express their opinions using the hashtag “surgery selfie”, with many condemning the doctors’ lack of professional ethics.

“They are not acting professionally at all. They are treating the patients’ suffering as a joke, how can they even take a selfie at a time like this?” one Weibo user, Penny Zhutou, commented on a discussion thread.

Others expressed sympathy for the doctors.

“Doctors are humans too. I don’t think there is anything wrong with them wanting to take a photo to celebrate after a long and successful surgery. We should look at this rationally, instead of being limited by those so-called restrictions,” another Weibo user, “Diaolinghoucanque” commented.

CNN’s Serena Dong contributed to this report.