Human Exceptionalism

Violence Against Chinese Doctors a Warning

Years ago, I received a serious death threat directed against the personnel at a specifically named hospital. My correspondent was convinced that a beloved baby had been killed instead of provided expensive care, and in his grief, told me he was plotting revenge. (I called the FBI which diffused the situation. But it was very worrying.)

I was reminded of that upsetting episode by a USA Today story about a wave of violence against hospital workers in China. From the story:

China plans to beef up security in its hospitals to prevent the deaths of doctors and nurses in attacks by patients’ relatives outraged over the cost and quality of care…Attacks on medical staff, mostly by angry relatives, killed seven people and injured 28 in 2012…

Emotions often run high at Chinese hospitals, a result of resentment over expensive and hard-to-access medical treatment. Anger can be compounded by the need to pay bribes to guarantee good service and supplement doctors’ usually low wages.

Monday, several people severely beat three doctors at a hospital in south China’s Guangzhou city after they were unable to immediately take home the body of a deceased, elderly relative. “All medical personnel feel insecure!” wrote Eric Chong, deputy secretary general of the China Hospital Association, on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent, after the incident. “We need all sectors of society and the government to face up to this, and make a self-criticism! Otherwise China’s medical service has no future!” he wrote.

This is something that I worry could happen here. Futile Care Theory–so many ad hoc death panels–and the prospect of formal health care rationing under Obamacare, would sow intense distrust in the health care system. For the unhinged, that could be dangerous.

Most people make the right decisions about when to stop treatment. Coercion directed against the few who don’t is not the answer. 

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