Chinese doctor on night shift complains of timing of patient’s death, sparks talk of medical ethics

March 1, 2011Jing GaoNo Comments, , , , , , , , , , , ,

From Nanfang Daily

A doctor surnamed Li Conglin (李丛琳) in Shantou, Guangdong province who did not want a terminally ill patient to die during her night shift wrote in her weibo, or microblog, “Please wait until I leave work to die, will you?” The remark started a ferocious buzz. Netizens call her cold-blooded doctor. She is now suspended from practicing medicine.


Li's photo in her microblog

The three messages on Li’s Sina weibo (microblog) had been shared by over 10,000 Sina users and commented by several thousand. An overwhelming majority considered her “cold-blooded” and “unethical.” Nevertheless, some net users said “She was just being honest,” “Having seen too much has made her nonchalant to life and death. Understandable.”


“Time to test my RP. One patient’s oxygenation is decreasing. It is highly probable that I have to get up in the middle of the night to see her dead…It is so cold. Warming my bed is not really easy. Please wait until I leave work to die, will you?” – at 12:15 a.m. on February 16.

“It has been proved that my RP is so great! (Jing: RP is short for ren pin, literally moral quality. According to Chinese internet culture, moral quality is indexed to one’s luck; one will have extremely good luck as a result of having been doing good deeds. One will have very lousy luck because of low RP value.) Las night, the family asked countless times for cutting off IV infusion and letting the patient pass away in peace. I rejected them all and actually extended her life to today. She began to vomit blood when I was leaving work. Guess it is just a matter of a few hours. Anyway, none of my business. I am off. Oh yeah yeah yeah…” – at 11:54 a.m. on February 16.

“The best news I’ve received since starting my night shift! Highlight is in the last two lines (of the log): the patient is pronounced clinically dead~I can sleep well tonight! Going on vacation tomorrow!” – at 5:50 p.m. on February 17

According to Dr.Lin, the vice president of the hospital, Li Conglin has been at their hospital for three years, during which time she “has neither stood out nor been protested.” Lin said that Li has been suspended from practicing medicine and transferred to the hospital’s laundromat. “This is a very harsh punishment that is normally only meted out for severe medical malpractices,” Lin said. The decision is to let her examine herself and “appease public indignation.”

Asked if she could return her post, Dr. Lin said, “Not absolutely unlikely. It depends on her performance.”

A netizen said even Li’s outspokenness betrayed her ill nature. People of such nature cannot stay in medicine to stigmatize the profession. Tolerating her will lead to her murdering patients; no one can be sure if she would end a patient’s life ahead of time because of her reluctance to wait until midnight.

Dong Yuzheng (董玉整), member of Committee of Experts on Medical Ethics of Ministry of Health, said the fact that a few inappropriate remarks have caused such a big stir shows that currently the doctor-patient relationship is strained. Ordinary people’s discontent with health care can be “easily ignited.”

“The doctor-patient relationship epitomizes complex social relations. Nowadays, ordinary people find it difficult and costly to see a doctor. They easily clash with the hospital. Meanwhile, because of ill-balanced flow of information, they feel unfair and inevitably furious at such remarks in microblogosphere. ”

China has seen medical malpractices of the utmost absurdity, which drew rants and raves from the public. In Nanjing, a 5-month-old baby has died because the doctor on duty was obsessed with Chinese FarmVille (online game) and ignored the parents’ cry for help. Unhappy with the poor tip given by a pregnant woman, a midwife in Shenzhen sewed up the woman’s bleeding piles with a needle and black thread in revenge after the delivery.

Dong Yuzheng said that Li’s attitude is problematic. As a medical practitioner, she is held accountable to her patients. “It is a matter of course that you cannot sleep while on the night shift. Doctors should fulfill their obligation of healing the wounded and rescuing the dying,” Dong said.

Liao Xinbo (廖新波), deputy head of Guangdong Health Bureau, said she was just joking. But after being magnified by the mass media, it yeasts into a serious and unethical issue. “After all, it is about one’s values. It may also have something to do with her immatureness. Even if it was a mere grumble, she shouldn’t have let it out like that,” said Liao, “However, the media don’t have to blow it out of proportion.”


Screenshot of Li's "cold-blooded microblog".

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