Patient-On-Doctor Violence On The Rise In China

What is the Big Idea?

An intern in a hospital in Harbin city was stabbed to death by an angry patient last week. Three other doctors were seriously injured in the attack. These latest victims join a list of at least ten other medical professionals in China who were murdered last year by disgruntled patients. 

What is contributing to this surge of violence against doctors in China? 

It's a combination of medical malpractice, expensive treatments, long lines, and protracted medical disputes. And while contending with all these issues, patients do not have a place to air their grievances, according to Kai Yue's op-ed in the Economic Observer.

 "There is growing concern that if trust between doctors and patients cannot be rebuilt soon, the price will be paid in both further violence and overall declining medical care," said Yue.

Patients aren't the only ones suffering. Doctors are also harboring their own list of resentments. They often work ten hour days, seeing over 100 patients per shift and they're subjected to a system that forces them to over-prescribe expensive medication in order for the hospital to survive. 

And here we thought the U.S. healthcare system was in disrepair.

What is the Significance?

Violence and other societal ills in China are not limited to the medical field, according to Yue. 

"The street hawkers are angry because the police chased them and knocked over their stalls. Evicted householders throw Molotov cocktails at the authorities after their houses were illegally demolished. The patient is angry at the doctor who misdiagnosed his condition or cut out the wrong organ," he says. 

China seems to be stuck in what Yue calls a "mutually harming" mode. "Everybody is harming everybody and can get harmed themselves," he writes. And fixing China's healthcare system is only the beginning to a long list of problems that seem to bring out the worst in people.

"This is why it’s not enough to blame China’s current health care problems entirely on the medical system itself. Naturally, a bad system will foster the evil in human nature, whereas a good system can encourage good deeds. If each person sticks to his job requirements and controls abuse, or at least decides 'not to be evil,' the bad system will eventually be transformed. Otherwise, we will wind up with a society based on standoffs, where patient-doctor, public-police, citizen-politician relationships become sore points that turn the whole of society into a sick and crippled body."

Reforming China's healthcare system is the easy part, says Yue. Policymakers must find new ways to finance medical care, build more hospitals, and streamline regulations to resolve medical disputes more smoothly. It's getting people to take responsibility that is the hard part.

"Any profession will eventually lose its social value if it is not based on moral responsibility," he said. 

Doctors in China get paid about $500 a month, according to BloombergIn order to supplement their income, they take bribes from patients and kickbacks from funeral homes for a patient's impending death. This does not bode well with the public. The proof is in an online poll conducted by People's Daily --the Communist Party's news outlet--where readers were asked to express their feelings about the murder by clicking on emoticons. Sixty five percent of respondents clicked on the happy face. The sad face received 6.8 percent of the clicks.

Related Articles

Scientists discover what caused the worst mass extinction ever

How a cataclysm worse than what killed the dinosaurs destroyed 90 percent of all life on Earth.

Credit: Ron Miller
Surprising Science

While the demise of the dinosaurs gets more attention as far as mass extinctions go, an even more disastrous event called "the Great Dying” or the “End-Permian Extinction” happened on Earth prior to that. Now scientists discovered how this cataclysm, which took place about 250 million years ago, managed to kill off more than 90 percent of all life on the planet.

Keep reading Show less

Why we're so self-critical of ourselves after meeting someone new

A new study discovers the “liking gap” — the difference between how we view others we’re meeting for the first time, and the way we think they’re seeing us.

New acquaintances probably like you more than you think. (Photo by Simone Joyner/Getty Images)
Surprising Science

We tend to be defensive socially. When we meet new people, we’re often concerned with how we’re coming off. Our anxiety causes us to be so concerned with the impression we’re creating that we fail to notice that the same is true of the other person as well. A new study led by Erica J. Boothby, published on September 5 in Psychological Science, reveals how people tend to like us more in first encounters than we’d ever suspect.

Keep reading Show less

NASA launches ICESat-2 into orbit to track ice changes in Antarctica and Greenland

Using advanced laser technology, scientists at NASA will track global changes in ice with greater accuracy.

Firing three pairs of laser beams 10,000 times per second, the ICESat-2 satellite will measure how long it takes for faint reflections to bounce back from ground and sea ice, allowing scientists to measure the thickness, elevation and extent of global ice

Leaving from Vandenberg Air Force base in California this coming Saturday, at 8:46 a.m. ET, the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 — or, the "ICESat-2" — is perched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket, and when it assumes its orbit, it will study ice layers at Earth's poles, using its only payload, the Advance Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS).

Keep reading Show less