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In China, Doctors Assaulted When Cures Don't Work

Better watch the other hand too ...
Better watch the other hand too ...
Wen Xin

BEIJING — Earlier this month, in the central Hunan province, the family of a cancer patient beat up the attending doctor and a pregnant nurse because they had been unable to save the patient's life. The nurse nearly had a miscarriage afterwards, while the hospital ward facilities were badly damaged.

On June 5, the Chinese Medical Doctor Association firmly denounced the act and demanded that the perpetrators be punished — not the first time it has been forced to publicly pronounce its disapproval of such behavior.

But will such an expression of condemnation work? I fear that only if China achieves greater openness and transparency about medical risks can an end be put to the doctor-patient conflicts and occasional violent acts such as this.

Chinese media has reported more than 60 cases of violence against doctors since 2003. The Chinese Medical Doctor Association's incomplete statistics show that last year there were 16 doctors injured or killed in such incidents. According to my own calculations, between February and June this year more than 11 serious cases of doctors being injured have been registered.

This increasing number of medical-related conflicts demonstrate that the major cause of violence is due to the patient’s or patient's family's lack of medical knowledge and their unrealistic expectations of medical treatment.

Even a nurse administering injections could become subject to an assault. This shows the great importance of dialogue about medical risks between medical staff and patients. Medical risks make up in fact the most entangled factor in doctor-patient conflicts.

Emotions and education

To patients, medical risks imply the uncertainty that may result in injury or disability because of unsafe consequences or professional incompetency during the entire process of medical care. But some treatments, especially for serious illnesses, can sometimes come with known, serious risks, that are not linked to the level of care.

Chinese people are more emotional than informed about both health risks and current medical treatment. But the onus is on the medical establishment to educate the public. If a particular illness, for example, has a cure rate of 70%, the medical staff must be frank with the patient and family members beforehand that there is indeed a 30% chance of failure, and explain exactly what that means.

Those who have lashed out at medical staff attribute the responsibility for the ultimate health condition of a patient to the doctor, often thinking "I spent so much money to be cured." Meanwhile doctors who have done their best don't understand the anger.

Better communication between doctors and patients is the key to reducing such conflicts like we witnessed in Hunan this month. While we condemn violence, we also call for more openness by all relevant parties about risks of treatment and probability of cures.

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Brazil's Evangelical Surge Threatens Survival Of Native Afro-Brazilian Faith

Followers of the Afro-Brazilian Umbanda religion in four traditional communities in the country’s northeast are resisting pressure to convert to evangelical Christianity.

image of Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Agencia Publica
Géssica Amorim

Among a host of images of saints and Afro-Brazilian divinities known as orixás, Abel José, 42, an Umbanda priest, lights some candles, picks up his protective beads and adjusts the straw hat that sits atop his head. He is preparing to treat four people from neighboring villages who have come to his house in search of spiritual help and treatment for health ailments.

The meeting takes place discreetly, in a small room that has been built in the back of the garage of his house. Abel lives in the quilombo of Sítio Bredos, home to 135 families. The community, located in the municipality of Betânia of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco, is one of the municipality’s four remaining communities that have been certified as quilombos, the word used to refer to communities formed in the colonial era by enslaved Africans and/or their descendents.

In these villages there are almost no residents who still follow traditional Afro-Brazilian religions. Abel, Seu Joaquim Firmo and Dona Maura Maria da Silva are the sole remaining followers of Umbanda in the communities in which they live. A wave of evangelical missionary activity has taken hold of Betânia’s quilombos ever since the first evangelical church belonging to the Assembleia de Deus group was built in the quilombo of Bredos around 20 years ago. Since then, other evangelical, pentecostal, and neo-pentecostal churches and congregations have established themselves in the area. Today there are now nine temples spread among the four communities, home to roughly 900 families.

The temples belong to the Assembleia de Deus, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the World Church of God's Power, the latter of which has over 6,000 temples spread across Brazil and was founded by the apostle and televangelist Valdemiro Santiago, who became infamous during the pandemic for trying to sell beans that he had blessed as a Covid-19 cure. Assembleia de Deus alone, who are the largest pentecostal denomination in the world, have built five churches in Betânia’s quilombos.

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