Shaanxi obstetrician sentenced to death for selling babies

Court convicts obstetrician for child trafficking and sentences her to death with a two-year reprieve

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 January, 2014, 10:59am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 January, 2014, 2:41am

The Shaanxi doctor who sold newborn babies to child-traffickers for as little as 1,000 yuan (HK$1,270) was yesterday handed the death sentence, suspended for two years.

Zhang Shuxia, a former obstetrician at the Fuping Maternal and Child Health Care Hospital, was convicted of tricking parents into giving up their babies by altering test results to show the children had congenital or infectious diseases.

She sold seven babies to a middleman, who later resold the babies in Shandong and Henan provinces between November 2011 and July. Zhang pocketed over 100,000 yuan, the prosecutors said; the middleman made more than 200,000 yuan, according to the Jinghua Daily.

Six of the babies were rescued by police, but a baby girl voluntarily given up by her parents and sold for just 1,000 yuan in April later died.

The doctor claimed she did not know the middleman was a human-trafficker. She thought she was "doing good" by selling babies to infertile couples.

But at the end of a one-day trial on December 30, Zhang read a tearful apology to the victims, saying: "I feel guilty and deeply apologise to the families … I violated the laws and deserve to be punished."

Despite her admission, Zhang presented a petition signed by more than 100 former patients pleading for leniency. The intermediate court in Weinan , however, imposed a suspended death sentence because of the negative impact the crime had on the society.

Such suspended death sentences are often later reduced to life terms if the prisoner behaves.

Lawyer You Feizhou, of Chongqing , called the sentence "too harsh".

"Most of the babies have been returned to their families, and Zhang does not bear direct responsibility for the death of the baby girl," he said.

You also questioned why Zhang was the only defendant at the trial, while other hospital employees reported to have been involved were charged with misconduct in separate proceedings.

"Baby trafficking on such a scale cannot be committed by just one individual," You said. "Several parties were clearly involved in the case. Two separate trials may end up with one sentence too harsh and the others too lenient."

The parents of the trafficked babies should also be held accountable, and possibly penalised, for their roles in the incidents, human rights lawyer Yuan Yulai said. "Although they were deceived [by the doctor], abandoning their children because of congenital diseases is inhumane," Yuan said.