Family of Chinese boy consider 'electronic eyes' offer from Hong Kong doctor

Father of six-year-old says family considering HK specialist’s offer to treat him, but current doctor calls talk of ‘artificial eyes’ premature

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 September, 2013, 11:01am

The father of a six-year-old boy whose eyes were gouged out says he's still considering whether to accept a Hong Kong doctor's offer of medical help.

Guo Zhiping told the South China Morning Post yesterday that Guo Bin was recovering in a hospital in Shanxi province after he was found covered in blood with his eyes ripped out last month. Police have identified his aunt as the primary suspect, but she killed herself last week.

The family is weighing an offer from Professor Dennis Lam Shun-chiu, a leading Hong Kong eye surgeon, to treat the boy for free at his hospital in Shenzhen. Lam said he was willing to perform the many operations Bin would likely need in the years ahead. If they went well, he may eventually be able to receive electronic eyes, which should allow him see light and shapes through signals sent to his optic nerves.

Bin's said the family still needed more information to know whether the device. "would work out".

But on Wednesday, Jia Yading, the director of Shanxi Eye Hospital where Bin has been admitted, raised doubts over Lam's plan.

"Electronic eyes are still in the research stage and have not yet gone to clinical trial," Jia was quoted by the Beijing Evening News as saying. "The child has lost his eyes, and is in great pain … personally speaking, [I] really don't want to use an untested technology on a child as an experiment."

Lam said using electronic eyes was a long-term solution - one that would come perhaps 10 years later, when the technology had matured. "Their opinion is the same as ours. There may have been some misunderstanding," Lam said.

Jia said Bin was well enough to leave the hospital, and might be ready to receive prosthetic eyes in about one month. Dr Lam said that procedure could be performed in Shanxi, but he was willing to do it in Hong Kong.

Guo said the family wanted Bin to stay at the Shanxi hospital until he was better.

The hospital said on Wednesday it would probably waive the current 6,852 yuan (HK$8,600) bill, but the cost for follow-up treatment would be hard to estimate at this time. A school for blind children in Taiyuan also offered free admission for Bin, but Guo said his son would attend the school.

Shanxi police released more details of the investigation late Wednesday night, one day after it identified Zhang Huiying as the top suspect. She killed herself last week. Han Zhihui, a police officer with the Linfen Police Bureau, told CCTV that DNA testing had found blood from Bin and Zhang on a purple shirt collected from the crime scene.

They excluded the possibility she had taken part in rescuing the boy after he was discovered in a field, covered in blood, on August 24, more than three hours after he had gone missing while playing outdoors in Fenxi county, 750 kilometres southwest of Beijing.

Relatives told mainland media last week the boy said he was grabbed by a woman stranger with dyed yellow hair and a non-local accent.

Police said they tried to talk to the boy after his mood stabilised.

"The child said [the kidnapper] looked exactly like his aunt, [and he thought] it was her," officer Zhang Liqing said on CCTV. "But the child soon changed his account." He said that because the attacker had gouged out his eyes, "it was not my aunt".

Additional reporting by Lo Wei