Issue of trust between doctors, patients in China

Updated: 2011-09-27 17:10

By Henri Lee (

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In most countries, a medical doctor carries the status, knowledge and certainly the good heart for his or her patients. The profession is vital to the whole health system; the doctor involved is also highly respected. At least, the respect is a genuine one, without any attachments such as the hongbao from patients or unnecessary stress from supervisors or bribery from pharmaceutical companies.

Getting into medical school is difficult enough. Usually, it involves years of academic courses. Quite often, these medical students are in the upper echelons of all students with high distinctions in nearly all subjects. This is, at least, true in most overseas Chinese communities. Not only do they have to study extremely hard for the university entrance examination, they also have to endure years of hardship, lonely nights and cramming for all the teaching materials.

The dedication and devotion of serving patients and saving lives are the most important objectives of being a medical doctor, independent of the country that he or she is in. This is how it should be.

However, the recent incident of attack on the consulting doctor by his patient in Beijing indicates that the attitude displayed by patients may not be reciprocal. A number of doctors at Beijing Tongren Hospital allegedly stopped work for one hour to protest against violence in the workplace in September 2011. Law professor Yang Weidong (of the Chinese Academy of Governance) suggested that the root of this problem was the distrust between doctor and patient.

In this incident, the attacker involved firmly believed that his consulting doctor did not do a proper job. The doctor failed to remove the entire tumor, so his cancer spread and caused him to lose his voice. The patient could only blame the doctor who changed him from a talkative and knowledgeable artist to a dumb and disabled person. Worse, even though the patient sued the hospital in court for medical malpractice, the case was indefinitely adjourned. The patient stated that the hospital fabricated his medical records. The truth may never surface under the present legal and medical systems.

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