Medical students have admitted to performing surgical procedures on themselves and their peers, according to The New Zealand Medical Journal.

In a survey of 284 students at the Otago University medical school, 15 students – seven male and eight female – had admitted to performing procedures on themselves.

Of those procedures 11 were unsupervised and included cyst removal, puncturing veins, cannulation, arterial blood gas sampling and stitching up wounds.

Students reported that the technical aspect of performing the procedures was the most difficult part of self-practising, followed by the pain of the procedure and anxiety performing it.

Ethical issues that were most concerning to students were the use of hospital supplies and the safety of the procedure.

One student reported no ethical concerns, saying “[the procedure] was done at home with non-medical instruments outside of the hospital context, with no other involved, no equipment was taken from the hospital. Thus I see no ethical issues.”

Most students, 92 per cent, had practised medical procedures on their peers.

Peer-practised procedures included intravenous cannulation, puncturing veins, arterial blood sampling and inserting tubes through the nose, past the throat and down into the stomach.

Of the 264 students who reported performing on peers, 173 said they were unsupervised.

Students listed the difficulties they experienced performing on peers as inflicting unnecessary harm or pain, and a quarter said issues with technique, equipment and skill as a barrier.

Four per cent said performing on peers was not an authentic experience as young, healthy individuals with good veins were uncommon on the wards.

Other comments included one student who expressed guilt for pilfering resources.

One student said “we felt bad taking IV lines from a nursing station once. They had four. We took all four. I’m so sorry.”

The study was developed as a result of information gathered from interviews during a television documentary, Practising Medicine, which followed medical students at Otago University.