unintentionally infected five patients with HIV has been sentenced to just 2.5 years in prison.doctor at a top-level traditional Chinese medicine hospital in Hangzhou who
Back in December of 2016, Zhao Jinfang, a 33-year-old doctor at the Zhejiang Provincial Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine used the same medical tube to collect lymphocytes from a number of different patients, violating the first rule of blood collection. A short time later, one of the patients told Zhao that he was HIV-positive and had been infected prior to having his blood taken.
Realizing the potentially grave consequences, Zhao immediately informed the hospital and surrendered to the police.
Medical tests performed in February 2017 found that Zhao’s mistake had left five patients infected with HIV. They were all women, two of whom were pregnant at the time. Zhao was arrested on February 8th for medical malpractice. Meanwhile, multiple members of the hospital’s staff were fired, including its president and party secretary.
Zhao’s case went to trial in December 2017, with a district court sentencing Zhao to 2 years and 6 months in prison for medical malpractice. Zhao will be out of prison by August 7th, 2019 at the latest. The verdict was only recently released to the public.
Medical malpractice is a deplorable crime. In essence, it means that a healthcare provider has gone back on their commitment to patients and their health. By choosing to not properly and thoroughly perform their duties, they put people’s lives at risk.
HIV is a retrovirus that is spread by the sharing of bodily fluids like by sharing needles. The virus can eventually build up and weaken the immune system to the point of the patient developing AIDS. Even with all of humankind’s many medical and technological advances, there is still no cure for HIV. It is possible for those with HIV to live a long and relatively healthy life, but it requires expensive anti-retroviral treatment.
Zhao infected at least five people and sentenced them to a life of physical and financial suffering. If these women aren’t able to afford to keep up their health, then their lifespans will be significantly shortened.
News of Zhao’s sentencing has been heavily censored on Weibo, though some preserved comments show Chinese netizens expressing their shock and outrage at the doctor receiving a mere 2.5 years of jail time after ruining the lives of five patients.
In fact, the maximum penalty under Chinese law for a medical worker who causes death or injury to patients is three years in prison, according to the Global Times. Zhao reportedly was given a slightly more lenient sentence because the mistake was Zhao’s first offense and unintentional with Zhao stepping forward immediately to profess guilt.
The case calls to mind how tens of thousands of Chinese people were infected with HIV through blood donations and transfusions in previous decades because of lax safety standards. From 1985 to 2005, around 30% of China’s HIV infections werecausedby the country’s shady blood trade.
Since then, China has successfully cracked down on the illegal blood trade, and incidents like these are rare withsexual transmission now accounting for 94% of new HIV infections. But mistakes are still being made.