As many of you know I work in a large public hospital with over 2,000 medical personnel. We treat over 1,000,000 patients every year. Sometimes, things do not go well. Mistakes are made, and families get upset.
About once a week there will be a small group of people who try to come into the building where I work to complain to the hospital administrators about an unfavorable outcome (often this is hospital speak for death). Generally there is a lot of yelling, the police will come, and after 30 minutes or so they all leave quietly. I don’t know what, if anything, is ever done to help these people, but you can always hear the pain in their voices.
Today I witnessed the largest of these protests that I have seen over my 8 months here, nearly 60 family members gathered outside. This has been one of the few times in my 4 years in China that I was actually worried about my personal safety. The details came out slowly, and I only know the parts that my Chinese co-workers were willing to pass on. The family was so upset over this outcome that a physical fight between them and the police ended with a few people being taken to another hospital.
I learned later that the family had been expecting a healthy baby. Today that baby was born, but with a major birth defect, it was missing an arm. The family was angry because the hospital had missed this during the ultrasound (or perhaps it was something that was not obvious on the ultrasound). They were shouting, “How can our baby live without an arm?”
I couldn’t believe it. This large protest was not over a death, but over a life. They were upset because they had missed their opportunity to have an abortion (or euphemistically “stop the pregnancy”). They were demanding compensation from the hospital because they would have to raise a child with a disability.
This attitude towards the disabled, and the nonchalant way in which abortions are discussed I feel are a direct result of the one child policy (which I discussed in more detail here).
According to policy, ultrasounds may only be used for diagnosing health problems in the baby, and should never be used to reveal the sex of the child. This policy was created to try to prevent sex-selecting abortions. The result of this is that ultrasounds are now (supposedly) solely to diagnose health problems so that parents can decide if they want to have an abortion. Also according to the policy, children with serious birth defects do not count as your one child. This in some ways ensures that disabled people in China will never be treated as equals (even slaves counted as 3/5th of a person in early America).
One of my Chinese co-workers felt unwell in the early stages of her pregnancy and casually commented to me before her ultrasound, “If there is something wrong, I will stop the pregnancy, and we will try again,” (luckily the baby was fine, and she will give birth in about a month). When I told her that some Americans think that abortion is the same as murder she was shocked and said, “but it’s just a fetus now, not a baby.”
I don’t mean to preach morality, or condemn my co-workers, but to simply share an experience.
Please do not leave comments about the morality or immorality of abortion here, there are plenty of other places for that. Comments that do not respect this request will be deleted.
If you are a religious person I ask you to keep this family in your thoughts and prayers, they are clearly in a great amount of pain.