Taken from Weibo, the above picture shows a male foreigner helping out a man who was seemingly suffering from an epileptic seizure last Friday. According to passengers, an emaciated Chinese man was sitting on Metro Line 2 when he suddenly began to violently shudder and foam at the mouth. A nearby foreigner acted quickly by selflessly putting his expensive wallet into the man’s mouth to prevent him from biting off his tongue – a common misconception about seizures. The foreigner stayed with the man and helped him to retrieve pills from his bag before wordlessly getting off the subway.
The photo was forwarded over 9,000 times on Weibo over the weekend with many Chinese commenting on the selflessness of the foreigner and lamenting that once again it seems Chinese are unwilling to help each other out in times of need.
However, as the photo received more and more attention, netizens claim that the man is not actually suffering from epilepsy, but is in fact a con artist who had done this act numerous times in the past. These accusations surfaced after some netizens who viewed the picture remembered seeing him do the same thing during their commutes.
“I can’t believe it’s him again!”
“I was touched by his stories and gave him 10 yuan (US$1.56) when I saw him, but he was just using my sympathy.”
“He told us he was collecting bottles to get 300 yuan for a train ticket to go back his hometown, he looked very thin and ill, so many passengers believed him and gave him money.”
“He acted the same way every time – shaking, falling down, and foaming, then he got up and started telling his story to passengers.”
In China over nine million people currently suffer from epilepsy, but only 35% of those people are receiving treatment. It is not too absurd to believe that this man is actually suffering from epilepsy, and simply spending a lot of time in a public, enclosed space like a subway in order to “monetize” his disease via sympathy donations from strangers.
Simply because he was recognized as having done this before does not necessarily mean that he is not suffering from the disease. In fact, the connotation that may now exist between epilepsy and scam is a dangerous one that may prevent actual sufferers of the disease from receiving help when they are at their most vulnerable.
Regardless of whether someone is faking an illness or not, it is not up to the general public to make that decision. If you personally view someone who appears to be suffering a severe epileptic attack in public, try to put something soft under their head and remove anything harmful or sharp from around them. Do not put anything in their mouth, try to move them, wake them up, or restrict their convulsions. (See more first aid info at epilepsy.org.)