Analysis

Violence against doctors in China

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e5730 (Published 07 September 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e5730
  1. Therese Hesketh, professor 1,
  2. Dan Wu, MSc student1,
  3. Linan Mao, project manager2,
  4. Nan Ma, MSc student3
  1. 1UCL Institute for Global Health, London WC1N 1EH, UK
  2. 2Zhejaing Centre for International Medical and Health Cooperation, Hangzhou, China
  3. 3University College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to: T Hesketh t.hesketh{at}ucl.ac.uk
  • Accepted 17 August 2012

Violence by patients against doctors is on the increase in China. Therese Hesketh and colleagues examine the reasons behind it and the policy changes needed to tackle the problem

On 23 March 2012 a 17 year old boy with ankylosing spondylitis and tuberculosis was refused infliximab by a senior rheumatologist at the First Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University in northern China. He left the clinic, but quickly returned with a knife, and fatally stabbed Wang Hao, a junior doctor who was uninvolved in his case. Three other doctors were injured in the attack. This incident was not unique; there were three other reported stabbings of doctors by patients in China in March and April 2012 alone: one was fatal and two caused serious injury. The perpetrators were all male, poor, and paying for their medical treatment. None had a criminal record or a diagnosis of mental illness, but all seemed to have a grievance against the hospital for problems with their treatment. These murders are all the more surprising given that China has among the lowest murder rates in the world.1

The murder of Wang Hao has particularly unnerved the medical profession and the authorities, partly because of the youth of the perpetrator and the apparent premeditation, but also because of the public’s reaction to it. An online poll, set up by the People’s Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece, asked readers to express their feelings about the murder using emoticons. Although the 6161 who responded are unrepresentative of the general population (given the readership of the paper and the type of person likely to respond to such polls), the overwhelming majority (65%) selected happiness, with anger second at just 14%, and sadness at only 6.8%.2 The survey was rapidly removed but had already been widely publicised, …

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