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Zero tolerance to violence against doctors: China Daily editorial

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – A 38-year-old doctor in East China’s Jiangxi province was killed by one of his patients on Wednesday (Jan 27) and another doctor in the province was wounded by a patient on the same day.

We extend our sympathy to the family of the doctor whose life was taken when the patient stabbed him in the neck, and we hope for the swift recovery of the other doctor who was injured when his patient attacked him with a syringe containing a poisonous liquid.

There should be, as we have said before, zero tolerance to violence against a doctor whatever justification a patient may believe he or she has. This should be a rational consensus, whose rationale is self-evident. Those who harm medical workers in whatever way are criminals who deserve the severest penalties according to the law.

Incomplete statistics show that 180 medical personnel including 135 doctors and 35 nurses were attacked by patients or their relatives from 2016 to 2020. Of them, 16 doctors were killed.

How can patients and their relatives put doctors and nurses in harm’s way? A thorough investigation is needed to find out in each case why a patient or his/her relatives should conceive the idea of killing a doctor who is trying to help treat the patient’s medical problems. How could grievances in a patient or their relatives accumulate to such a degree that it propels them to take a physician’s life?

There could be some cases, in which some of these patients or their families might not be satisfied with the results of the treatments the doctors prescribe. There could also be cases in which some patients and their families encounter financial difficulties because of the treatment costs, and they may believe that the hospital concerned has charged them for unnecessary medicines or tests in order to make money.

Whatever the truth of their suspicions, such patients and their relatives will undoubtedly be highly emotional. If there are psychological interventions in advance, they might be prevented from going too far.

Security guards have been placed in many hospitals, and it is necessary for them to be alert in case some patients take extreme actions against doctors. But psychologists are also needed to provide counselling to those who display extreme emotions.

Fundamentally, however, further medical reform is needed to improve the service that hospitals provide and make it easier and cheaper for people to see doctors. Measures are also needed to help those who cannot afford their medical bills.

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Having said that, no one has the right to put medical workers in harm’s way. Those who attack or verbally abuse them must be penalised according to the law.

China Daily is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media titles.

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