Society

Patient-On-Doctor Violence In China Symptomatic Of A Sick And Crippled System

The recent killing of a doctor in northern China is just the latest act of violence by angry patients. A big part of the problem is an overcrowded, underfunded and sometimes corrupt medical system. By the symptoms go even deeper into modern Chinese societ

A Shanghai medical facility (Matslina)
Kai Yue

Last week, Wang Hao, a young intern in a Harbin city hospital in northern China was stabbed to death by an angry patient. Three of his fellow doctors were seriously injured. It's only the latest example of a malignant "medical condition" afflicting Chinese hospitals.

Last year alone, as many as 10 medical staff were murdered by patients. 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.

The violence appears to be linked to abnormal conditions becoming the norm in Chinese hospitals: queuing overnight for registration, treatment for a simple cold costing over 1000 RMB ($160), frequent occurrences of medical malpractice, the arbitration of medical disputes often dragging on for years -- the list goes on.

As for doctors, they too have plenty of pent-up resentment. They work more than 10 hours a day and can examine more than 100 patients per shift. The medical system forces them to over-prescribe expensive medication, otherwise neither they nor the hospitals can survive.

The consequence, in its most extreme form, is doctors with bodyguards. The traditional philosophy where the doctor should treat patients as a parent treats his children has been replaced by widespread animosity across the medical profession. Any prescription arouses questions by patients suspicious that the doctor might be scamming them.

Murder is an atrocious crime. Only a authorized justice system can deprive one of life, nobody else. We condemn any form of violence.

Nevertheless, we must ask ourselves why there is so much violence around us today? Why does it seem to manifest itself in the weak against the strong? 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….

Marketplace of responsibility

It's not difficult to explain the current physician-patient confrontation from a rational perspective. If we take a holistic review of each of these medical disputes we'll find that they all follow more or less the same pattern. The patient has paid an astronomical cost (materially or mentally) for treatment that is either not satisfactory, or even contrary to what was promised.

Part of the problem is that patients have no channel to vent their grievances, so the probability that some of them will turn to violence is bound to rise.

One of the more obvious ways to address the conflict is by reforming the medical system itself: finding new ways to finance medical care; building more hospitals; and streamlining regulations to resolve medical disputes more smoothly.

Friedrich von Hayek, one of the major economists and political philosophers of the 20th century wrote that the most important moral foundation of the Free Market economy is the responsibility: this ethical sense which makes each individual take responsibility for the consequences of his behavior. Any profession will eventually lose its social value if it is not based on moral responsibility.

In the face of this truth, what happens when a doctor prescribes drugs indiscriminately or even overtreats patients just to boost his own income? Can an urban law enforcer beat up a handicapped hawker to demonstrate his authority? Can an official casually tear down one's house for the sake of urban development? And what happens, as we've seen so often in China, when people are afraid to help strangers because they believe it puts them at risk of being falsely accused or sued?

Unfortunately, this seems to be an underlying illness of Chinese society today. Our food is toxic; our hospitals are unsafe; our roads are dangerous. Our society has fallen into a "mutual harming" mode. Everybody is harming everybody and can get harmed themselves. The patient could be hurt by a doctor; the doctor's house could be demolished; the patient could also be a profiteer selling "toxic milk" … you get the idea.

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.

Read the original article in Chinese

Photo - Matslina

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Ideas

Reading Rumi In Kabul: A Persian Poet's Lesson For Radical Islam

Born some eight centuries ago, the famed poet and philosopher Rumi offered ideas on religion that bear little resemblance to the brand of Islam being imposed right now in Afghanistan by the Taliban regime.

The work of 13th-century poet Rumi still resonsates today

Mihir Chitre

Among the various Afghan cities that the Taliban has invaded and apparently "reclaimed" in recent weeks is Balkh, a town near the country's north-western border. Interestingly, it was there, about 800 years ago, that a man called Jalal ad-Din Mohammad Balkhi, better known as Rumi, was born.

Some see the grotesque exhibitionism of the Taliban advance as a celebration of Islam or a "going back to the roots" campaign. As if followers of Islam were always like this, as if every willing Muslim always propagated austerity and oppressiveness. As if it was always meant to be this way and any shred of liberalism was a digression from the quest of the religion.

In fact, a look at the history of the religion — and of the region — tells a different story, which is why there's no better time than now to rediscover the wisdom of the poet Rumi, but without doing away with its religious context.


In a world where Islam is a popular villain and lots of terrible acts across the world in the name of the religion have fueled this notion among the West and among people from other religions, it's paramount that we understand the difference between religion as a personal or spiritual concept and religion as an institution, a cage, a set of laws created to control us.

Why do you stop praying?

To begin with, and largely due to the film Rockstar, the most famous Rumi quote known to Indians goes like this: "Out beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there's a field. I'll meet you there."

Rumi's original Persian verse, however, uses the words kufr (meaning infidelity) and Imaan (meaning religion), which was translated as "wrongdoing" and "rightdoing." To me, the original verse surpasses the translation with a vital, often missed, often deliberately forgotten, interpretation, which is to highlight the fact that there is humanity, love and compassion or a certain kind of mystical quality to life beyond the concept of religion and that is the ultimate place, the place where Rumi invites us to meet him.

It would be incorrect now to read this and think of Rumi as irreligious. In fact, he was quite the opposite. But his interpretation of religion was personal, spiritual and not institutional or communal or exhibitionist.

In one of his poems, translated by Coleman Banks as "Love Dogs" in English, a man who has stopped praying to God because he never got a response meets "Khidr," an angel messenger, in his dream:

Why did you stop praising (or praying)?

Because I've never heard anything back.

This longing you express is the return message.

To me, through this poem, it's clear that Rumi advocates for a personal relationship with God. In fact, he goes on to say that being true to God is to long for his validation or nod, that life is longing.

A copy of Rumi's spiritual couplets at the Mevl\u00e2na Museum in Konya, Turkey

A copy of Rumi's spiritual couplets at the Mevlâna Museum in Konya, Turkey — Photo: Georges Jansoone/Wikimedia

Don't sweep the history of Islam with the broom of radicalism

For those familiar with the European literature of the 20th century, I could say that this echoes the ideas of Samuel Beckett. But remember: Rumi lived 800 years ago, at the heart of what we call the "Muslim world." To equate Islam on the whole with repressiveness and hostility, as many of us do today, might just be a criminal contradiction then.

It's also interesting to note that after the Quran, Rumi's is probably the most widely read work in the Islamic world, which suggests that Rumi's ideas, which may sound too progressive for anyone remotely associated with Islam in today's world, have, in fact, been accepted and cherished by the Islamic world for centuries. Sweeping the whole history of the Islamic world with the broom of radicalism wouldn't then be the fairest assessment of either the religion or of radicalism.

This physical world has no two things alike.
Every comparison is awkwardly rough.
You can put a lion next to a man,
but the placing is hazardous to both.

(From the poem: "An Awkward Comparison")

It's tragic that the Taliban has ravaged the same place with their own power-hungry, totalitarian interpretation of the religion which once produced a mind that embraces it with wide arms of warmth and peace and refuses to be compared with other followers of the same.

How to cure bad habits?

It is vital for us to separate groupism or communalism, which often escalates to barbarism, from the thought it is based on. It is vital then to read and reread that what Rumi sees as religion is the private association with God. It is also vital to mark the emphasis on individuality in Rumi's thought.

All the Western ideas of liberalism are based on the idea of individuality, which in turn is based on post-renaissance European thought. Asian philosophy is contrasted with its Western counterpart in the fact that it is rooted in mysticism as opposed to individuality.

Islam itself has long had a tradition of mysticism that is known as Sufism. Sufism is a sort of an inward dimension of Islam, a practice that encourages a direct, personal connection with the divine, a spiritual proximity to the omniscient that transcends the physical world and temporarily subverts immediate reality.

Sufism is the quest for the truth of love and knowledge, without necessarily always distinguishing between the two. Rumi was known as the Mevlana (Maulana) and his poetic collection Masnavi meaning "the spiritual couplets" is known as the Persian Quran. He was no doubt a mystic, a Sufi, and one who strongly endorsed the personal, for the most intimately individual is the truly spiritual.

Rumi might remain unparalleled in not just the Islamic world but also in the world of philosophy and poetry across the globe. Another thing that he will remain is dead. The Taliban, on the other hand, at least for now, looks rampant and alive.

It is now up to us, the other people who are alive, and the ones who are going to be born — not just Muslims but everyone else as well — to choose which interpretation of Islam we uphold or react to, how we read history, and what we borrow from it.

How to cure bad water? Send it back to the river.
How to cure bad habits? Send me back to you.

(From the poem: "My Worst Habit")

I think what we, as a world, need now more than ever is to be sent back to Rumi.

https://thewire.in/culture/re-reading-rumi-in-the-time-of-the-taliban
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