Malpractice in China

In the U.S., physicians often fear that if a patient experiences a bad health outcome, the physician will be liable for millions of dollars as part of a malpractice suit.  Although the malpractice system in the U.S. may be far from perfect, most physicians would certainly prefer it over the more informal forms of “malpractice” that have recently been used by patients in China.

In 2006, the last year the Health Ministry published statistics on hospital violence, attacks by patients or their relatives injured more than 5,500 medical workers…

In June alone, a doctor was stabbed to death in Shandong Province by the son of a patient who had died of liver cancer.  Three doctors were severely burned in Shanxi Province when a patient set fire to a hospital office. A pediatrician in Fujian Province was also injured after leaping out a fifth-floor window to escape angry relatives of a newborn who had died under his care.

I am not sure whether the U.S. or China is the anomaly.  If physician promising to cure the patient and they either become more ill or die, the patient’s relatives inevitably place a large share of blame on the doctor.  Thus, taking out one’s anger through violence against physicians could be a natural response; fortunately, instances of patient-physician violence in the U.S. are relatively rare.

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