China Red Cross insists dying patient must complete body donation forms in person

Despite 22-year-old cancer sufferer Zhang Qi's condition, the Red Cross Society of China still made it difficult for him to donate his body

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 November, 2013, 7:25pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 November, 2013, 7:30pm

The Red Cross Society of China has come under fire for asking a dying patient to visit their office in person to fill out body donation forms.

The critically ill patient, a bed-ridden 22-year-old from Hubei named Zhang Qi, first aired his grievances on November 12 on Sina Weibo, using the nickname “Xiao Feng".

“Yesterday afternoon during talks with the Red Cross about donating my body, I told them that I was critically ill and could not personally go to their headquarters to fill out donation forms,” Zhang wrote. “Their reply was very straightforward: if you cannot personally come fill out a form then you cannot donate your body – we have no service for sending personnel to collect the forms for you.”

Zhang, a sufferer of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, or cancer of the white blood cells, told reporters from Chinese news portal that he was confined to a hospital in Hubei’s Wuhan city and physically unable to visit the Red Cross personally.

He added that he had first been diagnosed with his condition a year ago and had received a bone marrow transplant from his older sister in November 2012.

His leukaemia re-emerged shortly after the transplant, becoming especially serious in October of this year, and it was during this time that Zhang first began to consider donating his body to the Red Cross.

“I only wanted to make one last contribution to society,” Zhang said, pointing out that he had received curt replies after telephoning Wuhan’s Red Cross and explaining the particulars of his condition.

“It made me especially disheartened to hear the telephone operator tell me, ‘Sorry, we can’t help you. We don’t offer any sort of service to people who cannot sign the body donation forms in person,’” Zhang said.

Zhang’s original Weibo post attracted over 2,000 replies from other microbloggers, many of whom expressed disgust at the Red Cross Society of China’s policies.

“How could something like this happen?” one poster asked. “The Chinese Red Cross is red like our government.”

After Zhang’s story attracted media attention, Chen Yun, president of Wuhan’s Red Cross charter, explained to that with only 14 actual employees, Wuhan’s Red Cross organisation was severely understaffed and could not afford to send personnel door-to-door to collect forms.

Nevertheless, Chen granted an exception in this circumstance and sent a representative to Zhang’s hospital room to apologise.

Zhang, who is currently in critical condition with only a 30 per cent chance of survival, said that he understood the trying circumstances of Wuhan’s Red Cross charter and still planned to donate his body.

This incident is only the latest scandal to affect the Red Cross Society of China's image in recent years. In 2011, Red Cross representatives in Shanghai were caught in the act of spending nearly 9,900 yuan (HK$12,200) on a lunch party. Only a few months later, senior Red Cross officials in Yunnan province were accused of misspending organisation funds on luxury goods and lavish trips.