Reports from the front lines of hospital violence in China

Excerpts from international medical journals about violence in Chinese hospitals

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 March, 2014, 5:02am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 March, 2014, 5:02am

Over the 10 years to the end of 2011, details of 124 incidents of serious violence in hospitals have been collated. The incidents included 29 murders and 52 serious injuries, most of which were caused by stabbing or head injury… In most cases the reports attribute the violence to spontaneous outbursts of anger and frustration because of poor care, medical errors, or exorbitant costs, but over the past 10 years, violence aimed at extorting compensation from hospitals has increased. And in a worrying development, Yi Nao gangs are increasingly involved... [These are]  criminal gangs who are prepared to go to extreme lengths to obtain compensation from hospitals on behalf of families in dispute with hospitals ... Patients who feel aggrieved about treatment are often forced to take matters into their own hands. Existing legal channels for suing for malpractice, which operate through the local medical association are inefficient, ineffective, and perceived to be weighted in favour of the medical establishment. 

“Violence Against Doctors in China”
British Medical Journal
September 7, 2012


Public hospitals in China enjoyed full government funding before 1985. After economic reforms, the hospitals now receive very limited financial support …with the result that hospitals must generate income to cover costs. As the main source of hospitals’ income is from diagnostics and treatment, there is financial incentive to over-investigate and over-treat… Many doctors struggle to balance professional ethics and making ends meet.

“Chinese Doctors Are Under Threat”
The Lancet editorial
August 28, 2010


The growing problem of violence in hospitals in China can certainly be attributed to the worsening of the doctor-patient relationship, but more importantly, it is probably due to the fact that China’s health-care system lacks regulations to protect medical staff from intended violence. There is no comprehensive legislation in China to specifically address medical disputes and violence… On October 24, the Chinese Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Public Security announced new guidelines to provide better security at hospitals, [which included setting standards for the number of security guards]… This announcement has provoked the ire of medical professionals and internet users, stressing the government’s hypocrisy because it will not address the fundamental issue of protection of doctors and might even further intensify the doctor-patient conflicts.”

Correspondence to The Lancet,
November 23, 2013


Many patients are willing to spend large amounts of money as long as doctors can cure them. They regard themselves as consumers and believe that doctors should compensate for the financial and emotional loss when they fail to cure disorders. But this notion is absurd. Health and life are the two things that cannot be bought... Many patients with an unreasonable expectation of medicine are desperate for new treatment at any cost. Violence against doctors occurs when medical accidents happen; such accidents often arise from the pressure to try new and expensive treatments.

Letter to The Lancet
September 14, 2013