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Sticks, Cans of Mace Are Now Part of Doctors' Kits in China

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American doctors love to complain about their huge malpractice insurance premiums, which they have to cough up to protect themselves from rapacious plaintiff's lawyers. But at least they don't have to deal with actual hordes of marauding rioters, like their counterparts in China do when they screw up in the operating room.

From the Los Angeles Times:
Friends and relatives of a patient who died on the operating table marched on Nanchang Hospital No. 1 brandishing pitchforks and clubs. About 100 staff members, among them young doctors, prepared for the onslaught by arming themselves with long sticks and cans of mace, while the security guards donned police vests and helmets.

What followed was a pitched battle in the lobby atrium with horrified patients gawking from the floors above.

Although nobody was seriously injured in (last Tuesday's) melee, the incident brought attention to a wave of violence in Chinese public hospitals. In Nanchang, a provincial capital 300 miles southwest of Shanghai, a young doctor reportedly suffered a serious head injury in June after the family of a deceased patient led a protest that turned violent.

According to the Times, these hospital riots are often staged by professional rabble-rousers. The Chinese call them yinao, or "medical disturbance," and their business model is to link up with the families of deceased patients and arrange an incident at the hospital. The local government will generally pay the family to back down, "for the sake of social stability," and the yinao collect 30% to 40% of the settlement -- not unlike the cut American tort lawyers get, incidentally.

It seems it's difficult to sue for malpractice in China, and the only officially sanctioned course of action in many cases is to petition authorities, which requires a trip to Beijing.

Naturally, Chinese attorneys would like to see the system changed so they can get in on the action. "Conflicts like these are inevitable and there will be many more if people can't solve their problems through the law," Urumqi-based plantiff's lawyer Zhang Yuanxin told the Times.

For now, though, mayhem and disruption are the best bet for the aggrieved. A man in Nanchang who claimed to be in the yinao business explained the ins and outs of medical mobs to a local paper. In the Times' translation: "I always tell my clients, if you start a big disturbance, you'll get a bigger compensation package. If you start a smaller disturbance, you'll get a smaller package. And if you don't do anything, you'll get nothing."
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