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China

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)
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 The traditional philosophy where the doctor should treat patients as a parent treats his children has been replaced by widespread animosity across the medical profession.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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Future

Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

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