Everyone has heard that story at one point or another: man wakes up in Tijuana with one heck of a hangover, only to find his kidney has been sold on the black market. But what if the culprit was not some faceless criminal, but your very own doctor?
This is exactly what happened to Liu Yongwei, a man who discovered during one fateful trip to a hospital in Jiangsu that his right kidney had mysteriously gone “missing,” while his left one was in serious distress, sparking an epic journey to find out just what the hell happened to him.
NetEase reports that Liu’s troubles all began on the morning of June 12, 2015. It was a normal day, same as any other, except for the fact that during his morning drive to work on his tractor, he happened to come across a couple of young men riding motorcycles, speeding headlong towards him, on course for what would have surely been a nasty collision. Desperate, Liu did the only thing a driver could do at the last moment; he swerved, and in doing so was thrown to the ground as his tractor flipped over.
Liu was rushed to the nearby Xuzhou Medical School Hospital, where he was examined by one Doctor Hu Bo. Upon examination, Dr. Hu realized that Liu had suffered significant trauma to the right side of his body, and was diagnosed with broken ribs and bruises to his liver and right kidney.
Having decided that Liu had suffered enough damage to warrant surgery, Hu immediately decided to operate, whereupon after cutting Liu open and treating his insides, Hu briefly removed the man’s kidney to examine it. Hu, who is a cardio-thoracic specialist (ie, heart and lungs) and is definitely not a urinary specialist, decided that his kidney looked fine and supposedly replaced it back into the unconscious Liu.
After Liu regained consciousness, he was reassured by Dr. Hu and the hospital that all was well, and that he should head on over to another hospital for further treatment.
Things got weird at the second hospital. After having Liu undergo a routine CT scan, they made a couple of rather alarming discoveries: First, the surgical tubing from the first surgery was still very much embedded in the man’s abdominal cavity, and now appeared to be infectious. Second, his right kidney was nowhere to be found. The hospital refused to provide further treatment to Liu, fearing any negative consequences that could result in light of this new discovery.
Desperate, Liu traveled to another hospital in Nanjing, and received the same diagnosis: there was an infection in his abdominal cavity and, oh yeah, his right kidney wasn’t there.
Determined to discover the truth behind his illness and the loss of his right kidney, Liu returned to the Xuzhou hospital and sat down for another consultation with Dr. Hu. He unsurprisingly gave Liu the exact same diagnosis: kidney gone.
When Liu then told Hu that he was the one responsible for his condition and pressed for answers, the good doctor “ducked his head and immediately left the room.”
Liu took the problem to the local court, which in turn ruled that the case should be categorized as a criminal one, and that Liu should seek out the local police.
At the police station, Liu explained the entire situation, but the police in turn decided to kick responsibility back to the hospital. They told Liu that the case was “too complicated,” and that the evidence pointed to a simple case of organ failure. Liu was advised to go to the hospital’s doctor-patient office to file a complaint, and that he should go alone, without the police, since “the issue was a private one, and not a public affair.”
The police did tell him that if the hospital refused to see him, that he should call them back, which he did after he was once again refused a meeting with staff. For more than 20 minutes Liu waited, but for whatever reason no one ever arrived to help him.
Liu was eventually able to schedule a meeting with a representative of the hospital, but she was unable to provide any further explanation other than “we do not know.” The only new revelation for Liu came when the representative expressed surprise that Hu, a cardio-thoracic specialist, would take it upon himself to handle a problem with Liu’s kidney, which would have normally been treated by a urinary specialist. They did, however, agree to open an investigation into the matter, and so Liu waited.
Two months passed, and Liu had still not heard from the hospital about the result of their investigation. When Liu and a reporter called Dr. Hu, he quickly told them that the investigation had been concluded and promptly hung up.
After calling the doctor-patient office, they were told that the case had already been filed away, and that the results were inconclusive. The report speculated that Dr. Hu may have mishandled the kidney, but had no conclusions as to why the kidney was gone, either by organ failure or worse, and has since closed the case. “ Now I have no idea where my kidney went, and other hospitals still refuse to treat me,” Liu sighed.
After the news went viral late last week, the hospital in question has since fired back, with specialists inspecting Liu’s CT scan and finding a decayed, shriveled up kidney — “about the size of a sesame seed” — in the corner of his abdomen. They insist that further tests will be carried out to learn the truth about the matter.
According to The Paper, Liu doesn’t want to wait and is already planning on suing the hospital for 2 million yuan. The hospital has responded by telling him to go ahead and file the lawsuit.
Whether the kidney is there or not, the bizarre tale has Chinese netizens feeling even more concerned about the state of their country’s health care system. In March, authorities in Shandong revealed China’s largest-ever health scandal, involving a 300-people ring that distributed over 2 million spoiled vaccines in 24 provinces over the last 5 years. In April, a young cancer patient underwent a experimental procedure at a military hospital in Beijing that he learned about after searching on Baidu. The treatment was unsuccessful and the man’s death has sparked a national scandal. Also last month, a 3-year-old boy with autism died at a private rehabilitation clinic in Guangzhou after undergoing military-like training.
These kinds of cases have worked to create deep levels of distrust between doctors and patients in China, which is not helped by the numerous knife attacks that angry former patients make on their physicians. Last week, one unstable patient stabbed his former dentist to death, prompting yet more soul searching about how to solve a problem that doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.
[Editor’s Note: 6pm] The post has been updated to include the hospital’s claims that Liu has “seriously distorted the truth” in claiming that his kidney has gone “missing,” when actually it has just shriveled up so much that it is almost invisible, according to specialists who looked at his CT scans.
By Stanley Yu
[Images via NetEase]