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Chinese Doctors Deserve More Protection from Violence by Patients

Chinese laws and regulations should specify that doctors have the right to refuse medical treatment to patients when their safety is threatened, argues a news commentator

By Xu Mouquan Updated Jan.26

Yang Wen, a physician at a Beijing hospital, died after the son of a patient who attacked her with a blade on December 24, 2019. A commentator argued that Chinese regulations should allow doctors to refuse treatment when threatened. 
While those who commit such vicious crimes must be punished, preventing such tragedies from happening is the priority, Li Guowei wrote for Shanghai-based news portal The Paper. 
Strengthening security measures is obviously the most direct response, but seamless protection is unrealistic, he noted. 
This case was not a spontaneous act, but the result of a series of events, he wrote. In such cases, patients and their families distrust doctors, who are often verbally and physically abused.
According to the Hong Kong Code of Conduct for Certified Physicians, doctors can terminate the doctor-patient relationship if deemed safe for the patients’ health. 
Although the Chinese mainland also requires that “both doctors and patients should respect each other during diagnosis and treatment,” patients can disrespect doctors while bearing no direct consequences. 
Patients suspect doctors of profit gouging, and doctors are forced to justify their treatment. There is no longer mutual trust, Li said, adding it is urgent to grant doctors the right of refusal in certain situations. 
Another effective protective measure is to protect doctors, Li said. But the existing regulations are vague on this point. Medical institutions can prevent such crimes, and should immediately call police when dealing with violence from patients and their families.
The commentator proposed that the regulations should specify preventative measures and authorize medical institutions to use force when necessary.