Beijing institutions clash over pregnant woman's death

Beijing institutions clash over pregnant woman's death
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Physics institute, hospital in Beijing trade words after incident involving family members, staff.

A dispute has erupted between two of China's powerful medical and scientific organisations after the sudden death of a pregnant employee of one of the groups at a Beijing hospital.

The deceased woman's family was accused by the hospital of destroying hospital property and chasing and beating some hospital staff members. The woman's husband denies the accusation.

But while physical altercations over treatment disputes have repeatedly made news, a confrontation between prestigious organisations is rare, if not unprecedented.

A woman surnamed Yang, 34, who worked at the Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, was admitted to Peking University Third Hospital for hypertension on Dec 28, according to the hospital.

Yang was 26 weeks pregnant when she entered the hospital and was in stable condition after treatment, the statement said. However, she complained of pain before her heart stopped on Jan 11, and she died despite emergency resuscitation efforts, the hospital said.

Autopsy results showed that Yang died of an aortic rupture, which is fatal in most cases, the hospital said. A rupture can occur in the aorta, the main blood vessel leading from the heart, if a tear develops and blood flows between layers of the vessel wall. High blood pressure and pregnancy are among the risk factors for the condition, according to the US National Institutes of Health website.

The CAS institute that employed Yang said in a statement on its website on Saturday that it sent an official letter to the hospital on Thursday requesting a thorough investigation into the death of Yang in response to her family's concerns. It demanded a "fair, transparent and thorough" investigation.

But in a statement released on Saturday night, the Chinese Medical Doctor Association questioned the legitimacy of the institute's letter and retorted that the institute should first of all educate its employees to follow the law.

Huang Yong, deputy chief of the physics institute, told ThePaper.cn on Sunday that the institute sent the letter to the hospital at the request of Yang's family because some family members had complained that the hospital was reticent to include them in the investigation of Yang's death.

The letter was meant to call for the hospital to find the cause of the death as quickly as possible, not to put pressure on the hospital, he said.

The hospital said after Yang's death that dozens of her family members and relatives gathered at the hospital, destroyed property and chased and beat some medical staff members, which seriously disrupted the hospital's operations. They left when police arrived, it said.

Zhang Ziqiang, Yang's husband, said on Sina Weibo on Sunday that he and his family members had disputes with the hospital within two days of Yang's death for reasons that included the hospital's failure to provide them with a detailed medical record and death report. But he denied the accusation that they ever beat any of the medical staff or destroyed any property.

Neither the hospital nor Zhang could be reached for comment on Sunday.

Li Huijuan, a lawyer at Zhonglun W&D Law Firm in Beijing, said it is not proper for the institute to send the letter to address a private issue between a patient and a hospital.

"Public institutions should check their power and refrain from acting arrogantly," he said.

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