Chinese media has recently been widely reporting about a prominent medical malpractice lawsuit. According to the reports, doctors from hospitals in Shanghai and Zhenjiang, in Jiangsu province, convinced healthy people to accept joint heart and lung transplantation surgeries so that surgeons could practice their skills.
Southern Metropolitan News claimed Huang Ling, the son of deceased Chen Fengying, filed the litigation. Huang accuses two hospitals of deceiving his mother by offering a free operation, and performing an organ transplant on a person who did not need it so that the surgeon could learn transplantation techniques.
Chen was admitted to the Tongji University Affiliated Shanghai East Hospital on March 26, 2003. She was scheduled to undergo treatment of coronary atherosclerotic cardiopathy and menopause.
“It was hospital President Liu Zhongmin who diagnosed my mother with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) and congenital heart disease, even though there wasn't any examination, chest X-Ray, electrocardiogram or ultrasonic cardiogram,” said her son. “She had never received this diagnosis at any other hospital.”
According to Huang's stepfather, the hospital president told his Chen that her cardio-pulmonary failure had reached a terminal stage and that heart and lung transplants were the only way to save her. Otherwise, she would survive no more than three months, she was told.
Huang said that the only reason his mother accepted the surgery was because she was told that if she agreed to the transplants, the hospital fees, transportation costs and all other expenses would be paid by the hospital.
In the six months that followed, Chen waited in the Shanghai East Hospital for a suitable donor to be found. On September 21, 2003, the hospital president claimed that an organ donor had been found in Zhenjiang City, Jiangsu province. Chen was discharged from Shanghai East Hospital and escorted to the First People's Hospital in Zhenjiang by a doctor.
The doctor in charge assured Huang that his mother's operation was 100 percent safe and that the success rate was 98 percent guaranteed. Huang said that before the operation, a woman named Xu Xiaoping convinced Chen that she had received a successful heart and lung transplant. Huang later discovered that Xu had been incorrectly diagnosed with cardiopulmonary disease and was then offered heart and lung transplant surgery for free. She was left unable to work and the hospital was thus paying her to entice other transplant patients.
On September 25, Huang received a phone call from the First People's Hospital telling him that his mother had died. Chen was 49.
Huang rushed to the hospital and went straight to the morgue where he saw an oxygen tube still connected to his mother's body. Her thorax had been cut open and her whole body was covered in blood. The hospital claims that Chen died of acute rejection of the donor organs on the operating table before the surgery was completed.
In the three years since then, Huang has investigated the cause of his mother's death. On September 5, 2005, he went to the People's Court of Shanghai Pudong New District to file a lawsuit against the Shanghai East Hospital and the First People's Hospital in Zhenjiang.
Huang raised several questions in the lawsuit about the way his mother had been treated: Was it necessary for her to have a cardiopulmonary transplant? Was donor tissue matching of performed prior to the transplant? Were the two hospitals in question equipped to perform transplants? Had Hospital President Liu Zhongmin ever performed transplant surgery before? In March 2003, Liu claimed that Mrs Chen would not live more than three months if the transplants were not performed, but the operation did not occur until September 2003. How could she have lived for six months without the transplants?
Huang requested that the court conduct a judicial evaluation of Liu's diagnosis and the decision to perform the heart and lung transplants. Huang also requested that the hospital provide the donor tissue typing results, but the hospital refused to comply.
Huang, who had published his mother's experience on many popular Chinese Websites, said that after the first court hearing, the Shanghai East Hospital was prepared to settle the case out of court by paying 80,000 Yuan (approximately US$10,000). Huang said he rejected the offer because he wanted to discover the truth and to stop hospitals from harming other patients. The case is still in progress.