“American doctors suck,” overseas Chinese debate over health care

February 10, 2011Jing Gao11 Comments, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

From MITBBS, a famous online community for true-born mainland Chinese who study and work abroad, mostly in the United States.

Disclaimer: translation does not imply endorsement or disproval.

There are very few good doctors in the U.S. I was ill several times in both China and the U.S. Many American doctors are pigheaded.

pudonghao on Friday, February 4, 2011 at 12:28 am

The first time (I got ill) was when I first arrived in the U.S. Because of exhaustion from overwork and malnutrition (food partiality), I frequently suffered from cramps (either during playing basketball or at midnight). The pain was so terribly. I went to the medical center at the University of Chicago multiple times. They made examination after examination of me (blood, urine, X-ray) and insisted on not writing prescription. They said everything was normal, and they even suspected that I deliberately asked for prescription and sick leave, since their questions and consolations sounded as if they were in those movies talking to a lunatic. I was constantly afflicted (the medical expenses amounted to several thousand dollars, even though I personally didn’t pay much) for half a year. I was afraid there might have been something wrong, so I hurried to China during the vacation and went to the Military Hospital of Nanjing. I only saw the doctor once before I was told this is caused by a severe deficiency of vitamins and not a big deal. The doctor gave me an injection of B-12 and some vitamin pills, and asked me to eat more fruits and vegetables. Two weeks later, cramps were completely gone and not a penny was spent.

The second was (when) I went to my girlfriend’s in D.C. for Christmas. When joy reaches its acme, sorrow follows. I caught a really bad cold. Even though the room temperature was 75 F, and I covered myself with a comforter, I still felt chills down my spine. Because my girlfriend was scared, on her insistence I went to ER at George Washington University (It seemed there was no doctor elsewhere, as no one answered my phone.) There were very few patients on that day. The nurses completely disregarded the existence of patients and were absurdly slow. I waited for two hours before a nurse came to take my vital signs (body temperature, pulse). I waited for another hour before the doctor on duty came to me. The doctor asked only a few questions before he sent me to a series of examinations (Again, blood, urine, X-ray), gave me some over-the-counter medications and asked me to return the second day. The next day I lay in bed until the evening and recovered. So I didn’t bother to go. A week later, someone called and asked that I show up for my medical appointment. My girlfriend told them I had gone back. Of course, I received my test results and a confusing bill, which said 6,000 dollars.

The last time was when a classmate of my wife delivered her baby in Baylor, one of the best hospitals in Dallas. She had been routinely visit the hospital, and had been admitted into the hospital ahead of time as expected. Everything was normal. However, at 11 a.m. on the morning of the expected date of labor, something went wrong. She told her husband that she felt chest tightness and, later, difficulty in breathing. The nurse dismissed it and only gave her cold water to drink. At 1 p.m., she seemed definitely too weak. Only on her husband’s repeated insistence did the nurse report it to the doctor. The doctor didn’t come in person. Instead, he instructed the nurse over the phone. She died that afternoon, so did the baby. This incident had a huge impact on Chinese students of UT Austin (University of Texas at Austin), because it was really caused by the hospital’s foot-dragging. Later, the lawsuit didn’t go well either, as the lawyer thought it is very unlikely that damages be awarded based on amniotic fluid embolism. Later, someone who used to be an obstetrician in China said amniotic fluid embolism is very dangerous. However, if handled properly, at least the baby can be kept safe. The American nurses and doctors were inexperienced and delayed it.

Courtesy of legaljuice.com

Selected comments on the post:


The U.S. health care system is a huge bubble. The legal system is a mess. It is really a miracle that the U.S., as a country, can make it to this day.


The U.S. actually first became a big brother before its health care and legal systems gradually evolved to what they are today.

youfellow: @goforward

Wrong. We should say that after WWII, European Jews emigrated in large quantities to the new continent and became American Jews. Then things gradually changed to what they are today.


It’s mainly due to the fact that it enjoys exceptional advantages and has plenty of resources to consume. The health care and legal system go after profit maximization, and incompetence can actually rake in more money.


For the second one, you deserve what you got.


This has a lot to do with health care insurance. There is a film, whose title may be JohnD, that tells its dark inside stories.


The one who operated on U.S. President Clinton was a charlatan. Clinton almost died. (Richard) Nixon’s doctor was also a charlatan. Therefore, luck is important. But it can hardly put people at ease if life and health depends on luck.


The most shameless people in the U.S. are doctors and lawyers. This country will be ruined by these people sooner or later.

ganganray: @JunPengJia

Maybe it is the other way around. Doctors suck, which leads Americans to have evolved to be tough? Hehe.


The U.S. health care has advanced techniques. But the doctors are very irresponsible.


That’s because the facilities are technologically advanced. It is basically a bunch of charlatans using high-tech to fleece people of money.


Health care is a worldwide conundrum, as lives are directly involved, and demand is always bigger than supply. I think the solution is to promote medical knowledge to the entire population. Therefore I have faith in China.


American doctors not only suck, but brazenly commit highway robbery as well. I once had a fish bone stuck in my throat. I waited in an ER at an American hospital for four hours and was so painful. A doctor came. He fumbled for over an hour before another came and said it might have already been forced down. In the end it was a $2,700 bill, counted as a surgery. Can’t you tell if the fish is or is not there?


Americans do not eat fish with bones. No doctor is trained for that. I have a friend who is an otolaryngologist (specialist in ear, nose and throat). He is on duty in ER (in China) whenever it is a festival or a holiday. Dozens of people come every night. He charges 20 yuan (3 dollars) per head. For your health, don’t eat fish with bones in the U.S. If you insist, eat when you are back in China.

taitu: @LookingGood

Haha, this can be a joke: removing a fish bone requires special training. Such a kind of training is not taught in any medical school.


Haha, a child was hospitalized when he was taken to ER. He stayed there for a week for examinations. They charged him nearly 40 grand and then said nothing wrong was found before they discharged him.


Ordinary people are ignorant and have blind faith in doctors, lawyers and the Wall Street.
In fact, Americans have been severely brainwashed by profits by trade since they were little.


My colleague has plagued by her thyroid disease for years. It is on and off. Doctors here are really mediocre.
Maybe hospitals affiliated with those top universities are fine. In ordinary regions you can hardly find a good doctor. Besides, here, medical malpractice lawsuits are very fierce. If a doctor followed protocol and killed a patient, there is no problem. But if he didn’t follow protocol and cured whatever disease you had, once he is sued, he will be in big trouble. The time and money a doctor spends on proving he is not liable is not little at all. Any problem the child you midwifed has before he reaches 18, as long as it can be remotely linked to your midwifery, can be cited to sue you. These expenses will be reflected on us ordinary patients’ bills.


That’s why Americans’ life expectancy is at the bottom among developed countries.

SabrinaQ: @laocat

Source? It is not wise to fabricate statistics to prove one’s point.
Besides, the fact that Americans’ life expectancy is not the longest among developed countries has no categorical and direct causal relationship with health care quality. It has much to do with Americans’ lifestyle. Diet high in fat and carbohydrates makes Americans more susceptible than people in some Asian and European countries.


Almost every doctor learned how to inject (vitamin) B12. They learned it in medical school. Your case is just about placebo effect. B12 deficiency has nothing to do with your symptom. Figure it out if you were duped before you fill your heart with gratitude.


China has many medical incidents. A large percentage. It is said it is as much as 40%. Such as gaining hepatitis II via blood transfusion.


In China, the tradition of doctors of high-level mentoring young doctors is very good. Most old doctors are very patient and responsible in instructing rookies, and teach them without any reservation as if they were their own children. In the U.S., you can practice medicine on your own once you get the license. Personal experience is all about blazing a bloody path based on a large number of wrong diagnoses and treatments.


The trump card American doctors play is passing the buck. There is no such thing as blazing a bloody path based on a large number of wrong diagnoses and treatments. Two cases can bankrupt a doctor.
American doctors are best at referrals. One visit costs several hundred dollars. Except for lab (tests), one question means one referral. It solves absolutely no problems. Would rather ask my dog back home.


I have observed American doctors performing surgeries. Many of them completely screwed up. A few casual stitches at the incision, and then it becomes perfect.


But it is way more convenient to treat minor diseases in China. When I went to Chinatown to buy prescription drugs, I noticed many white buddies go there too. U.S. health care system is also a headache for white buddies.


Then why do you stay in the U.S.? What a shitty insurance you are paying for? PPO (preferred provider option)doesn’t have any referral. And you should go to hospitals such as Xiehe or Tongren in Beijing. Lining up for an appointment with a medical expert is even harder than getting a train ticket during Spring Festival travel season. Many good doctors and hospitals in China are reserved for the privileged class. You are not guaranteed to enjoy it even it you have money.


Good doctors in the minority no matter where it is. Even in the U.S. The entire world are seeking after them. I guess most ordinary people never have a chance to meet these doctors.


(Proficiency of) American doctors varies with regions. If you live close to a hospital affiliated with a university, you are likely to meet a good doctor. If you live in a so-so region, because of factors such as distance and insurance, if is really hard to find a good doctor. Like someone mentioned above, China’s mechanism for mentoring doctors is fairly good. A master leads a protégé, and often for years. Of course, it will form different sects. I am not sure about how mentorship is done here in the U.S. I don’t think it makes sense to allow doctors to open their own clinics after they come out of residency. It’s practically experimenting with patients.


Newcomers to the U.S. are all like that. They think the U.S. health care is too bad. (And K-12 education.) But some time later, especially when they have had kids, health care and education for children become the reason why they can’t return to China.

tgbqaz: @sharpdressed

That’s because you’ve had too many drugs and become addicted.

sharpdressed: @tgbqaz

Maybe yes. But taking drugs is good. Americans have been taking them for decades. Since 1980s, people have been crying “The U.S. education is over!” “How great Chinese are at science subjects!” But 30 years later, those who excel in science subjects have flocked over to become “test tube boys” (Jing’s note: those who work in labs all the time) and work for those drugs dosers. I would rather that my kid have grown up drugged and be the manager of your kid who is a hard-working genius.


What’s more, newcomers who always made appointment with medical experts back home go to newly-opened hospitals and even resident physicians here. Then they cry that all American doctors are worse than their Chinese counterparts. What about going to China’s countryside clinics and find a physician who has just graduated?
If the U.S. health care sucks, why the deep-pocketed come to the U.S. to treat their illness and have surgery in large quantities?


I think the U.S. has as much charlatans as experts. Both my mother and I had had nail ringworm for over ten years. Mine was not as bad as my mother’s. I am not exaggerating, but my mother tried all kinds of medication for nail ringworm available in China, and went to several cities to see a doctor, and spent several thousand dollars, and it was still not cured. Finally, a doctor said to my mother, “Your nail ringworm cannot be cured in the rest of your life.”
In 2007, we went to a hospital in my area (in the U.S.) to treat nail ringworm for my mother and me. As my mother didn’t have insurance, I gave 100 dollars to the doctor. The f**king plump white doctor only had a glimpse before he said we didn’t have nail ringworm and asked us to apply some emollient and disinfectant. Of course there was no efficacy. From then on, every time my parents spoke of U.S. health care, they said it is costly and bad service.
In 2010, I heard that another hospital is pretty decent. So I went there specially for my disease. Two young and handsome doctors carefully scraped my nails and did lab test. Finally they confirmed it was caused by a certain type of fungus. I was given some medicine. I was completely cured after two courses. Then I gave the rest two courses of medication to my mother. Surprisingly, her nail ringworm was also cured. It had been 12 years since we first contracted nail ringworm. From then on, my parents often say, American medicines and doctors are still better. A disease that couldn’t be cured for the past 12 years was cured in two months with medicines from the U.S.
Therefore, it is very important to find the right doctor in the U.S. Awesome doctors are very awesome, and also good at prescribing medication. Of course, there are also many pig-headed doctors.


American people, generally speaking, have good physical health. They can do with charlatans and do not need so many experts and military doctors as in China.


Here in our area, cardiology has been ranked first in the U.S. for many years. Often Arab princes and business tycoons come here for a doctor.
Let’s put it this way: if the U.S. health care sucks, why Liu Xiang (Chinese hurdler) and Yao Ming had their surgeries in the U.S.? Don’t tell me they can’t be treated by the best doctors in China.
I think the biggest issue is, most Chinese go to ERs. ERs seem to be staffed with rookies and mediocre doctors. Think about it. It’s pretty normal. ER is so demanding that experts definitely dislike working there.
Another thing is hospitals matter. Many universities are in black neighborhoods. If students need to see a doctor, they naturally go to a hospital located in a black neighborhood. It’s understandable if the service is inferior. You should look it up for the hospital ranking ahead of time. Ever since my nail ringworm was cured, I go to the awesome hospital for any disease.


It’s easy to make an appointment with an expert in China. For the U.S. insurance policy, we had to rely on referrals. It’s a chance in a million, as if a blind cat bumped into a dead rat, if we are referred to a real expert. Often times we come across specialists who know nothing, and then we need to find another doctor. Appointment after appointment, month after month, and treatment of the disease is delayed. Unless it is nail ringworm or athlete’s foot, who can afford to wait this long?

sharpdressed: @tgbqaz

Good, you rich person. We had no money or connection back in China. We never saw any expert. It would be luckly if we could see a doctor at a county hospital. Please do not wantonly speak on behalf of people like us who come from rural regions.


“I frequently suffered from cramps (either during playing basketball or at midnight).”
This is obviously the symptom of lack of calcium and vitamin B. The doctors at U. Chicago failed to tell that?

euclid2003: @tgbqaz

The great hospital I mentioned can arrange an appointment in three days most of the time. Good hospitals can often guarantee doctor’s competence. Therefore, ranking is very important.


When I first came, I sprained my wrist. I didn’t have any experience, and thought health care here is advanced and free, so I went to see a doctor three times. In the end I paid 1,200 dollars, as the basic facility fee alone was 900 dollars. The doctor did damned nothing but gave me an X-ray and asked me a few questions. Eventually I recovered from taking Chinese herbs and applying Chinese plasters.


It’s easy to understand. A doctor’s skill depends on their clinical experience to a great extent. Clinical experience comes from that accumulated from cases they have taken care of. The U.S. can’t possibly have as many patients as China does. Therefore they have seen way less, and naturally are less experienced clinically. But the U.S. has highly advanced scienced and technology. They can rely on many auxiliary examinations and practices to catch up. Good hospitals have good facilities, so their skill is not bad either. But the cost is way higher.


I agree. American doctors are at two extremes in terms of their skill. The most awesome is way more awesome than China’s best. The worst is even worse than a doctor at a third-tier hospital in China. Therefore it is very important to find a good hospital. Now I understand why Americans are so concerned with the ranking stuff. Good hospitals can naturally attract good doctors, and good doctors are willing to go there. If it is a bad hospital, then you can only pray.


Agree. Here (in the U.S.) it’s 10% cream of the crop and 90% charlatans.


Actually, it is mainly because most American doctors have very few objects to be experimented with. Huhu.


There are good doctors, but those stand by for ladies. Poor people without health insurance have to live with minor disease and suffer severe illness and will not be rushed to the hospital until they are dying.


The U.S. appointment policy in health care is very cruel. And doctors’ skill is worrisome. My junior, a girl, wanted to have a wisdom tooth pulled, but her neighboring tooth was also broken. So horrible.

happy27: re:

I have fully the same feeling. Some American specialist doctors are awesome. General doctors have super shitty skill.


Every time I go to see a doctor in the U.S., I feel it is a pointless trip.



Most of us bring medicines to the U.S. from back home, especially those most in use, such as for fever and diarrhea.


Both are thallium poisoning cases. The hospital in Beijing back in the 90s could manage to keep Zhu Ling alive. The U.S. in 2011 claimed the victim’s life. It shows the U.S. health care system is inefficient and treats people’s lives like dirt.

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11 comments to ““American doctors suck,” overseas Chinese debate over health care”

  1. Hao Hao Report | February 10, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    Someone thinks this story is fantastic…

    This story was submitted to Hao Hao Report – a collection of China’s best stories and blog posts. If you like this story, be sure to go vote for it….

  2. Suzhou Huanjing Gong | February 11, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    European healthcare are simply equally bad!!!! Cheap but not available! Different approach, but similar results

  3. Ross Cournoyer | February 22, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    In America, if you go to the emergency room for cramps and exhaustion, or for a common cold they will not take your situation very seriously. For most Americans it is prohibitively expensive to go to the hospital, so we don't go unless we get our arm chopped off. This is why you perceive your healthcare experience to be a poor one, because they didn't think you were sick enough to merit their attention.

  4. c |=| | || e s e | April 26, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    Doctors in the US are in it for money, because medicine in the US is controlled by a cartel, and good doctors only serve Wall Street bankers/lawyers, Washington politicos and their associates.

    China is moving towards an European medical model where there are affordable and timely treatments for all instead of 1% highly trained world class specialists serving stock sharks and their associates while the rest get sh@t.

  5. tombot2010 | June 8, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    As a person who actually works in a Chinese hospital I can tell you that healthcare is no better here in China, and is no where close to a European model.
    Almost once a week there are outraged families who fight with police (we have a police office on the hospital campus for these events) and regularly these people are justified in their anger.
    I can also understand why Chinese patients would be frustrated in the US, in China 70+% of the time when you go to the hospital you will get antibiotics. Which is why China uses nearly 3x as many IV's as OECD countries.
    The price of medicine in China is held artificially low, which results in hospitals making bad decisions when it comes to patient care. If the gov't price is set too low to afford gloves, the hospitals just don't use them.

  6. FRENCHGUY | December 15, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    Chinese and American healthcare are a joke compared to what we are used in Europe..
    We pay nothing to see the doctor, they don’t even ask your ID CARD to receive you…
    If you get a car accident in Paris, they won’t ask you money even if you are neither a local nor a resident…

    That’s just a choice of society, healhcare is financed by the taxpayer money, that garantee equal access to it.

    We don’t need to wait days to see a doctor, you have many available general practitioners and specialists, and you pay exactly teh same price than at the hospital (7 or 8 dollars for a consultation ).

    You can get cured for cancer, or get a heart transplant for free….

    China have just choosen to follow the worst healthcare system possible in the western world, the one of thE USA.

  7. George | February 5, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    I am from USA. I can tell that the majority of doctors and, also, dentists are very horrible and very terrible. They are there for profits only and not for the patients. They do not care at all.

    Three years ago, when I hurt my left foot, I waited at the Emergency Room for about 4 hours and one of the Emergency Room nurses was very rude to me.

    When I asked the American orthopedic doctor to explain to me about the carpal tunnel syndrome that I had and I had a surgery for carpal tunnel release, she, never, explained to me at all about the carpal tunnel syndrome and how she performed the surgery. When I asked her about the carpal tunnel syndrome, she said to me like this: “Here is the chart”. How am I going to know how the chart explains to me about the carpal tunnel syndrome? She never once explained to me about the carpal tunnel syndrome and how she did the surgery on me. I am still very disturbed about it.

    I have read that USA celebrities and former President Reagan went to Germany for cancer treatments that exists in Germany, not in the USA. What a disgrace and a total shame on USA doctors.

  8. Dario Etherton | March 11, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    Hmm Well I was just searching on yahoo and just came across your site, mostly I just only visit blogs and retrieve my needed info but this time the useful information that you posted in this post urged me to post here and appreciate your diligent work. I just bookmarked your site. Thank you again.

  9. Guy In China | April 12, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    This was retarded. I’m sure the Chinese doctor just put him on a drip – which means it was a psychological illness anyway. How can you have a vitamin deficiency for 6 months? Did you never eat one fruit or vegetable for the whole six months in The US?

    • justice | April 18, 2012 | Permalink Reply

      exactly. Chinese doctors scare me, they just want to give you an IV drip and tell you to drink hot water. When I went to the PSB they had 60 urine samples sitting out, and one doctor talked an innocent foreign girl into taking her shirt off for an examination so he could see her boobs

  10. Medical Holocaust | May 12, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    The US has the most expensive health care and it is ranked 37th for quality.

    The leading cause of death and injury in the US is its medical system.

    The odds of getting a hospital acquired infection in the US are now 1 in 9.

    Health care is over 20% of the US GDP.

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