Chinese social media is still in an uproar over the case of a pregnant woman who allegedly committed suicide after her family refused to allow her to have a C-section. In the case’s latest revelation, the hospital where the woman leaped out of a fifth-floor window has been charged with “negligence” by local investigators.
The 26-year-old woman, surnamed Ma, checked into the maternity ward of the First Hospital of Yulin last Wednesday, already more than 41 weeks pregnant. According to a statement from the hospital which went viral Tuesday, doctors examined Ma and found that the fetal head was very large, meaning that vaginal delivery would likely be risky, so they recommended a C-section delivery instead.
However, the woman’s family insisted on a natural birth, repeatedly refusing to give their permission for a cesarean, the statement said, adding that the woman herself twice came out of the maternity ward on Thursday to plead with her family, explaining to them that the pain was becoming just too much for her to bear. Still, the family refused to relent.
In China, a family member must give consent before a patient undergoes surgery. In addition, Ma also had signed an authorization letter to transfer power of attorney to her husband on the day she went into the hospital. The doctors’ hands were tied as Ma’s situation was not life-threatening at the time.
Then, at around 8 p.m. on Thursday night, Ma fell from a fifth-floor window of the ward, killing herself and her fetus. Police have ruled that it was a suicide.
Today, an investigation panel, made up of local health and public security officials, decided that the hospital had been “negligent” in its care of the patient. While investigators did not fault the hospital’s medical procedures, it did charge the hospital with being unprepared for an emergency.
Earlier this week, Li Ruiqin, the obstetrician in charge of treating the pregnant woman was also suspended from his job while investigations are ongoing.
However, investigators have yet to make a decision as to the direct cause of the woman’s suicide, a major topic of conversation among Chinese netizens.
After the hospital’s account went viral on Tuesday, Ma’s husband came forward to offer his own side of the tragedy, claiming that he had twice given permission for a C-section, but that doctors had said that the birth would happen soon naturally and that a cesarean was not actually needed.
However, a hospital spokesperson said that the husband’s account did not agree with the facts, claiming that the man had never once given permission for the operation. As evidence, the spokesperson said that the hospital had the husband sign a form declaring that he understood the situation and possible consequences of not having a C-section as doctors had recommended.
In addition, the spokesperson said that afterward hospital officials had checked surveillance footage which shows the woman kneeling on the floor, desperately pleading for her family to give their consent. On Wednesday, the hospital released that footage, which is silent, online.
In response to the footage, the woman’s family has said that Ma was not kneeling to plead with them, but because of the intense pain that she felt, claiming once again that afterward they had given their permission for the surgery.
Also on Wednesday, the hospital’s head gave two reasons for why Ma’s family had not wanted a C-section performed. First, that the family believed that doctors love to do surgery because then they can charge higher prices and take a percentage. Second, that following a cesarean, a second pregnancy becomes more “complicated.” The official added that Ma’s family’s believed that childbirth would always be painful for a woman with Ma’s mother-in-law urging her to “persevere.”
Meanwhile, Ma’s family has dismissed speculation that they had refused to give permission for a cesarean because they were “too cheap,” noting that they had six cave dwellings, a common kind of housing in northern Shaanxi province, and a car. The family lives in poverty-stricken Suide county.
Ma’s husband has also questioned how hospital workers could have let a heavily pregnant jump out the window, implying that there were sinister motives at play in his wife’s death. The hospital said that there were five pregnant women in the labor room when Ma jumped out the window of a nearby operating room. All the medical staff were busy with other patients at the time, though one nurse did attempt to grab Ma at the last second, but was unable to hold on.
Yesterday, the hospital released footage online of Ma falling to the ground. Extended footage shows that it took 21 minutes for any paramedics to appear on the scene to try to help the woman, something that the family has again criticized the hospital for, arguing that her life could have been saved.
While it’s still not clear which side is telling the truth, the vast majority of netizens believe that the woman’s family is lying, trying to “save face” and perhaps weasel their way into some compensation money. Weibo users have questioned why a hospital would decline to do a C-section, a procedure with a higher price tag, why the family had signed a form declaring that they knew the risks of not having a cesarean, and why the woman was forced to leave the maternity ward twice to “kneel” on the floor for an extended period of time.