Unlicensed New York Acupuncturist Charged With Assault After Patient’s Lungs Collapse

Unlicensed New York Acupuncturist Charged With Assault After Patient’s Lungs Collapse
Acupuncture is just one of the treatments integrative practitioners can use to improve the health and wellbeing of their patients. (Africa Studio/Shutterstock)
Katabella Roberts

An unlicensed New York acupuncturist has been criminally charged after puncturing a woman's lungs during treatment and leaving her hospitalized, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.

Yong De Lin, 66, who worked from a medical office in Flushing—and who prosecutors say was not a licensed acupuncturist and had never applied for the required state licensure—was arraigned and charged with assault in the first and second degrees, reckless endangerment in the first degree, and unauthorized practice of a profession on Sept. 18, the district attorney's office said.

Mr. Lin is being held on $50,000 bail, NBC News reports. State Supreme Court Justice Toni Cimino ordered Mr. Lin to return to court on Sept. 20.

If convicted, he faces up to 25 years behind bars.

According to prosecutors, Mr. Lin's charges are connected with a total of 17 unlicensed treatments he performed on 63-year-old Shujuan Jiang between May and October 2022.

Beginning in May, Ms. Jiang visited Mr. Lin at C&W Medical on Union Street for "relief of stomach and back pain," where she was administered acupuncture treatments to both areas, prosecutors said.

However, during the last session with the unlicensed acupuncturist, Ms. Jiang began to feel unwell and had to lie down. Mr. Lin went on to perform additional acupuncture and a cupping treatment on Ms. Jiang before sending her home, according to the DA's office.

As she walked home, Ms. Jiang began experiencing shortness of breath and subsequently collapsed on the sidewalk, prosecutors said.

A bystander called 911 and Ms. Jiang was taken to a hospital where doctors determined that both of her lungs had collapsed because of the acupuncture treatments.

She underwent immediate and life-saving surgery but remained in the hospital for six days, prosecutors said.

Defendant 'Very Nearly Killed His Patient'

Acupuncture is a key component of traditional Chinese medicine and involves inserting very thin needles through the skin at strategic points of an individual's body to help relieve pain, according to the Mayo Clinic.

It is widely used to help relieve pain associated with various diseases and conditions such as dental pain, osteoarthritis, headaches, lower back pain, and respiratory disorders, such as allergic rhinitis.

While traditional Chinese medicine believes acupuncture can balance the flow of energy in the body and thus help with pain, most Western practitioners view the acupuncture points on the body as areas that stimulate nerves, muscles, and connective tissue.

Various studies, including one from the World Health Organization, have found that a collapsed lung is one of the most frequently reported serious complications following acupuncture, although such cases are still rarely reported.

"Most traumatic events are caused by improper manipulation in high-risk acupoints. The depth of needle insertion is crucial," the study says. "The lung surface is about 10 to 20 mm beneath the skin in the region of the medial scapular or midclavicular line. This may explain the high incidence of pneumothorax during needling in this area."

In order to obtain an acupuncture license in New York, individuals must undergo and complete 4,050 hours of training at a local education institution, and approximately 650 of those hours of training must be supervised clinical experience, according to the New York State Education Department.

"The difference between receiving health care from a competent, licensed professional or someone who is unlicensed can mean the difference between life and death. As alleged, the defendant was not licensed, nor had even bothered to apply for licensure, and he very nearly killed his patient," the district attorney said.

Ms. Katz also urged any other victims of the unlicensed acupuncturist to contact her office’s Elder Fraud unit.

The Epoch Times has contacted Mr. Lin's attorney for comment.

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