Issue of trust between doctors, patients in China

Updated: 2011-09-27 17:10

By Henri Lee (

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Following the health reforms introduced in recent years in China, patients sometimes feel that doctors always try to persuade or introduce them to choose more expensive medications or procedures. In China, the social status and financial reward of being a doctor is relatively low (compared to other countries). Bribery and corruption of the health system by doctors are not uncommon. A combination of these factors seems to create the atmosphere of mistrust between doctors and patients.

Expectation of 100% recovery is very high from the patients’ point of view. Therefore, they believe that financial bribery SHOULD guarantee top level consultation and management of any medical problems. However, such expectation may not be matched by the limited medical technology in China. The author has visited quite a few countries in the last 30 years; medical technology and top equipment are usually spread more evenly and openly to the citizens. They are not, in any way, limited and centralized in the hands of only a few hospitals or departments. The usage of such technology depends on the needs of patients; this is how it should be.

Violence is certainly condemned and feared by most people. Unfortunately, the underlying reasons cannot be easily addressed. Most people in China can attain only a primary education; the understanding of more complicated medical problems may not be easily handled. Therefore, doctors choose to show and tell limited stories to their patients. In situations where the results do not match the expectations, the feedback and responses may turn into revenge and violence.

Being a medical practitioner myself, I believe that mutual respect and acceptance of limitation are the keys to unlock this entanglement. Trust builds on this respect. Patients can understand if the doctors choose to explain more in detail. I believe genuine understanding and full explanation are the most important tools to prevent ambiguity and misconception of the involved issues. Let the doctors do their proper jobs without any interference. Hopefully, we live happily ever after.

Dr Henri Lee from Australia, a freelance scholar and researcher into Chinese entrepreneurship. Contact him by the email:


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