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Baidu probe

Chinese newspaper People’s Daily faces backlash after warning patients against ‘miracle cures’

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 May, 2016, 2:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 May, 2016, 2:00am

Internet users on Friday hit back at the Communist Party’s top mouthpiece People’s Daily over a commentary advising patients with untreatable diseases to be “realistic” about promises of miracle cures.

It was the third time in a week the newspaper had waded into the debate around the death of 21-year-old student Wei Zexi who had unsuccessful experimental cancer treatment at the No 2 Hospital of the Beijing Armed Police Corps.

Before he died last month, Wei said in an online post that he sought out the therapy after it topped a Baidu search result for his kind of cancer. Wei and his family spent more than 200,000 yuan (HK$238, 700) on the promise that the “state-of-the-art” therapy would “give him 20 years”.

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The commentary said it was a familiar “classic” case of someone seeking medical help “Chinese-style”, with Wei’s parents selling everything they could and going everywhere possible for treatment only to lose money and a life.

It said people should consider whether to exhaust all their resources chasing a cure for an untreatable disease or to let the condition follow its natural course.

“The most reasonable choice is to respect the order of nature and give up an unrealistic fantasy to face death and life calmly,” the commentary said.

It also said terminally ill patients without a background in science always hoped for a miracle and were vulnerable to frauds offering the false prospect of a cure. It called on the government to improve the medical system to ensure each patient had access to high-quality family doctors like those in the West so that patients would have access to information.

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More than 250,000 people commented on the piece posted on Sina.com, with many accusing the party mouthpiece of insensitivity and not focusing on official failures. “So nobody has been punished and this article basically says Wei deserves it?” one commenter said.

Another said: “The piece says nothing about the supervisory responsibility of government agencies, but says patients should better educate themselves and be scientific.”

“The tragedy of Wei highlighted the lack of supervision in the medical sector. There are many other such irresponsible hospitals,” a third commenter said.

In two previous editorials, People’s Daily accused Baidu of being irresponsible and called for better regulation of private medical institutions, but neither ignited such a backlash as yesterday’s commentary.