Chinese doctor stabbed to death at a hospital on Christmas Eve


It was about 6 a.m. on Christmas Eve, and Yang Wen had two more hours on the night shift in the emergency room at Beijing's Civil Aviation General Hospital. The doctor planned to spend the day with her college student son, who was back from Yale for the holidays.

But Yang, 51, never finished her shift or made it home.

An irate man, who for weeks had been complaining about his 95-year-old mothers treatment, snapped. He started stabbing Yang with a knife after she spent 20 minutes explaining his mothers treatment options, according to security footage and witness accounts. The attack was so violent, it severed her esophagus, windpipe, arteries and major nerves, and broke her neck.

Emergency doctors tried to save Yang, but she died shortly after midnight, as Christmas Day was beginning.

The attack has dominated the Chinese Internet for a week, partly because of its brutality and because it features protagonists who seem to personify good and evil. But the case has also illustrated the stresses in Chinas health-care system, where doctors are in short supply and work in difficult conditions, and raised questions about whether the health insurance system has set doctors and patients against each other.

Medical workers at the front line, myself included, are very traumatized by this attack, said Yang Huamei, a Beijing eye surgeon, who is not related to the victim. There is too much pressure on overworked doctors and a growing belief that money can buy good health, she said.

Seven million medical workers are shouldering the health care of 1.4 billion Chinese, she said. The state wants the medical sector to make a great leap forward, like other industries, and all on basic insurance money. It is never going to work.

Chinas state-run health insurance system provides basic coverage for treatment at public hospitals for most people. But these hospitals have come under strain as the population ages and becomes more demanding as it gets richer.

Reports of attacks on medical workers have become more frequent in recent years. Three obstetricians were assaulted in a Beijing hospital in 2018 after refusing a patients request to have a Caesarean section, and a doctor in Zhejiang province was stabbed to death in 2013 by a patient who complained he felt worse after surgery.

There were 295 reported attacks on medical staff in the past decade, resulting in 24 deaths, according to an analysis from Renmin University. A 2018 survey by the Chinese Medical Doctor Association found that two-thirds of doctors had experienced conflicts with patients, with a third of the disputes turning violent.

A recent survey by Ding Xiang Yuan, an online community for Chinese medical workers, found that 85 percent of doctors had experienced violence in their workplace.

Ahead of last weeks incident, an elderly woman named Sun Weishi, who was being treated for cancer, had suffered a stroke and fallen into a coma. She had been taken to the Civil Aviation General Hospital on Dec. 4.

Yang had first seen Sun and admitted her, a colleague told state broadcaster CCTV.

But from the moment Sun arrived, her five children began causing trouble, according to accounts from hospital authorities, other doctors and patients who said they witnessed the behavior.

The children refused to allow their mother to be examined. They insisted she receive intravenous fluids only. They refused to sign forms for other treatments. When Suns condition did not improve, the children grew increasingly agitated, complaining that she had been misdiagnosed and not treated properly.

They were particularly incensed that their mother remained in the emergency room because the inpatient wards were full, a common occurrence in overcrowded Chinese hospitals. Commentators suggested this may have been because insurance coverage is more generous for inpatient wards than for the ER.

The womans youngest child, a 55-year-old man named Sun Wenbin, was particularly aggressive. He had been doing odd jobs, including butchering and selling vegetables, his eldest sister told local news outlets. But because he was currently unemployed, he had been looking after his mother.

He pestered Yang and accused her of prescribing the wrong medication, a relative of another patient wrote in a post on social media.

Sun Wenbin and his siblings verbally abused and threatened doctors and nurses, according to a doctor on duty at the hospital. Sun said he would kill everyone in the hospital if his mothers fever didnt go away, the witnesses reported. For over half a month, we tried not to talk back, and everyone was terrified, the doctor said.

Then, on Christmas Eve, Sun struck. A security camera recorded the attack. The nurse who had been assisting Yang fled in terror, while a fellow doctor stepped forward to stop the attack but failed.

Sun has been arrested on suspicion of intentional homicide, and his mother has been transferred to another hospital. It is not clear whether he has an attorney.

They built a Chinese boomtown. It left them dying of lung disease with nowhere to turn.

The hospital brought in outside doctors to review Sun Weishis care, and they concluded that she had been treated properly and that protocols were followed.

We believe that with the full efforts of the judicial authorities, the murderer will receive due punishment, a hospital statement said.

More than 600 people attended a memorial service for Yang at the hospital on Friday, and the emergency ward overflowed with flowers from her former patients.

Patients and colleagues described her as an exemplary person and doctor.

A police officer who had interacted with Yang wrote a post on WeChat, the social media platform, about how she saved a new mother who had tried to kill herself and then took time to console the shaken rookie officer.

How I wish that instead of having a quiet day, I had been asked to chaperone some drunkard to the Civil Aviation General Hospital so that I might have been able to stop that suspect, he said.

On Saturday, Chinas legislature passed a bill that will make it illegal for any individual or organization to demean, threaten or endanger the personal safety of medical staff. The law is set to go into force June 1.

Still, the frequency of such attacks might make potential medical professionals think twice.

One doctor killed might lead to 10 doctors changing their jobs, 100 medical students reconsidering their career options, 1,000 families stopping their children from being doctors, and 10,000 patients losing the opportunities to get treated, Tsinghua University research fellow Zhang Xuenian posted Sunday on social media.

Zhang Zhiying, who practices at the private Amcare Womens and Childrens Hospital in Beijing, called for efforts to stop such malicious assaults on medical workers.

I hope relevant government departments can step in to ensure justice for Dr. Yang, the gynecologist wrote on news aggregation website Toutiao.com, and start doing something to guarantee doctors safety and rights.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com

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