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Doctor's refusal of cash in milk box impresses on social media

By Wang Xiaoyu | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-09-19 19:58

The story of a Chinese doctor who went to great lengths to avoid a box of cash from a relative of a patient has struck a chord with users on social media, and comes while the medical industry is in the middle of a nationwide crackdown on malpractice.

In early August, a 55-year-old man surnamed Lei had a severe heart attack and was taken to Zhejiang Hospital in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. Thanks to treatment provided by Gong Shijin, head of the hospital's critical care department, Lei was taken off a ventilator on Aug 14.

Before Lei was transferred to the hospital, his wife met with Gong in his office and tried to give him a box of milk containing 40,000 yuan ($5,500) in cash. Despite the doctor refusing to take the money, the wife insisted and left it behind on his desk.

Gong immediately reported the situation to the hospital's supervisory office who retained the money temporarily before transferring it into Lei's hospital account. Gong made sure to give the receipt for the transaction to Lei's wife, and reassured her that the hospital would spare no efforts to save her husband's life.

The story was shared on Zhejiang Hospital's WeChat account on Monday, and a related topic had attracted 270 million views on microblogging platform Sina Weibo by Tuesday noon.

"The doctor's action is worth a thumb's up. The patient wanted to give a red envelop to make themselves feel reassured. Transferring the money back to the patient's account after the patient had already passed the critical period meant that the doctor did not violate moral ethics and also avoided stoking anxiety from the patient," said Jiang Yifan, a user on Weibo.

Until relatively recently, it was a common practice among some in China to give doctors "gifts" or extra cash in the hope that they will provide special care to their loved ones while in hospital.

The malpractice has been curbed, though not completely, in recent years.

According to a code of conduct for medical workers that was released by the National Health Commission in late 2021, it is strictly prohibited to solicit or accept gifts, cash, gift cards and other financial products or valuable assets from patients and their family members.

Ma Li, a resident in Jiangsu province, said that she would be willing to give a gift to a doctor if her family members had to undergo a major surgery. "So far, I have never given a red packet to a doctor, but I would probably consult my friends and consider doing so in the future."

The ethics of the medical professional have been highlighted in a yearlong drive against corruption in the healthcare sector that was launched by nine government departments in early July.

The drive focuses on cracking down on bribery and kickbacks in pharmaceutical sales, the misuse of healthcare insurance funds, the ethics of medical personnel, the use of power in exchange for money, and misconduct by industry associations and enterprises.

Guo Yanhong, head of the National Health Commission's medical emergency response department, said during a forum on Sept 9 that the anti-corruption campaign should not hurt the majority of medical workers who work hard and selflessly.

"The clampdown should not involve the legitimate income of healthcare workers, and the campaign should not undermine their active participation in legitimate academic conferences," she added.

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