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Shuping Wang: helped save the lives of thousands in China by exposing contaminated blood scandal

BMJ 2019; 367 doi: (Published 15 November 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l6552
  1. Ned Stafford
  1. Hamburg, Germany
  1. ns{at}
Photo credit: Dan Wooller

During the 1990s, in her native China, Shuping Wang, a doctor and medical researcher, was ostracised by colleagues and harassed by her supervisors. A small woman, she was once struck by a man wielding a baton. She was forced out of her job, and her marriage crumbled under the incessant pressure.

Wang was persecuted because she had repeatedly, over several years, refused to remain silent after discovering that blood plasma supplies in Henan province were contaminated with hepatitis C and HIV. Thousands of patients receiving blood transfusions were being infected by tainted blood, and an HIV epidemic was under way.

When Wang alerted her supervisors of the contamination, she was told to keep quiet. Commercial blood harvesting was big business in the province, attracting hundreds of thousands of poor farmers who were desperate to sell their blood. Implementing measures to clean up the blood supply, her supervisors said, would increase costs and reduce profits. So Wang became a whistleblower. She wanted to protect the “very poor and vulnerable people from the countryside,” who were suffering most from the tainted blood.

“Those who had the power to fix the problem thought it best to cover it up, to save face and to keep their good standing in their jobs,” Wang said in an interview a few weeks before her untimely death.1 “Speaking out cost me my job, my marriage, and my happiness at the time, but it also helped save the lives of thousands and thousands of people. That may sound exaggerated, but it is true.”

Speaking out against the corruption ultimately also cost Wang her homeland. In 2001, although she had left Henan province and was living in Beijing, she moved to the US to escape the continued persecution and start a new life.

Early experiences

Shuping Wang was born with …

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