A doctor-patient conflict (医患纠纷) refers to any dispute between medical institutions and patients or patients' relatives. The term includes disputes regarding medical errors or other problems such as a medical fees-default.
Doctor-patient conflicts have been on the rise in recent years, forming a hindrance to China's social stability. It disorders regular hospital on-goings, as well as damages the legitimate rights and interests of medical staff. The proper handling of these disputes, protecting the rights and interests of both the hospital staff and patients as well as making hospitals good places of work have become a top priority in China nowadays.
On March 23, 2012, Li Mengnan, an out-patient with the First Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University, attacked four medical workers with a knife after so-called "misunderstandings" about his treatment program prescribed by doctors. Li was at the time suffering from both inflammatory arthritis as well as tuberculosis.
Doctors suggested first treating the tuberculosis and then the arthritis. They would not administer the drug (Infliximab) for treating arthritis as it could harm, or even kill, the tuberculosis carrier, who unfortunately in this case was convinced doctors were refusing him treatment.
Around 4 p.m., Li bought a fruit knife from a nearby store and returned to the hospital. He stabbed Wang Hao, a 28-year-old hospital intern, to death. Three others suffered injuries. Police arrested him at the hospital around 5 p.m. Found guilty of intentional homicide at the Intermediate People's Court of Harbin, he was sentenced to life-long imprisonment and was deprived of all political rights for life.
"Beijing has concluded 4,311 cases of doctor-patient disputes in the past five years," noted Chi Qiang, president of the Beijing Municipal Higher People's Court, in the 2012 work report on Jan. 26, 2013.
On the one hand, people who pay for medical treatment at their own expense account for a relatively high proportion. Due to a lack of money, some of them are even forced to sell their houses in order to acquire the necessary funds for any further treatment when they have serious or complex diseases. In this scenario, a patient's death may constitute a huge blow to the next-of-kin and therefore conflicts are easily caused.
Meanwhile, some of the medical staff may possess relatively poor communication skills and are more prone to creating misunderstandings between doctors and patients or their relatives. Above and beyond, bad service and a bad attitude can also mean a fuse to ignite conflict.
"First, the government should improve the proportion of medical funding for the development of medical service, gradually establishing a compensation mechanism for health insurance, enhancing the reimbursement proportion of self-paid fees and significantly decreasing the public's medical costs. Then, the medical dispute processing system should be perfected. A third-party mediation mechanism should be introduced and a medical liability insurance system set up," members of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference suggested.