Fang Xin et al: When will violence against doctors in China stop?

Violence against doctors in China is a continuing trend and one that many doctors are increasingly unhappy about. A White Paper about violence directed against medical personnel in China says that medical violence includes verbal and physical abuse. Nearly 59.8% of the medical personnel say that they have experienced verbal violence, and 13.1% reported physical harm. [1] According to the Chinese Hospital Association, extreme violence against doctors and nurses has increased rapidly over the past five years. [2] In 2014, more than 150 incidences of extreme medical violence against medical personnel happened in China. [1,2] The examples include doctors being attacked with a sabre, sheep slaughter knives, fruit knives, an axe and so on. In response to these kinds of abuse, a guideline to prevent violence in medical workplace in China was issued by Chinese Medical Doctor’s Association in 2011. [3] The National Health and Family Planning Commission and the Ministry of Public Security jointly issued a notice of zero tolerance for incidents of violence against medical personnel in 2013. [4] But these have not worked well. Until now, the incidence of medical violence is still on the rise. What’s going wrong?

Firstly, many patients consider themselves to be consumers. They think they deserve satisfactory therapeutic results because they have paid for their treatment. Secondly, a large portion of the media and journalists in China shoulder some of the responsibility by publishing some exaggerated or false information about medical staff or medical cases, which exacerbates ill feeling towards the medical profession. However patients are also a vulnerable groups. The Chinese government only spends 4.3% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on healthcare. More seriously, the allocation of our health resource is very unfair. About 80% of healthcare resources are used by 10% of the population. Although there are a large amount of laws, rules, and regulations about doctor-patient disputes, most of them are not fully implemented. So on occasions when patients aren’t treated fairly, they have no place to appeal. In return, they vent all of their complaints and rage to the medical personnel. So if we wish to resolve the doctor-patient dispute, we not only need to enact the laws, rules, and regulations, but they also need to be enforced strictly.

Due to the high risks and high workloads in medicine, only 20% of Chinese medical students choose to continue their medical career after graduation. [6] Moreover, many famous medical schools complain that the number of new students applying to medical school has declined sharply, and they cannot recruit outstanding students into medicine. [6] Some people say that some professions are destined to make sacrifices. Doctors are doomed to sacrifice themselves on the altar of the Chinese medical system.

Wu Shaoze is a third-year grad student at the Second Affiliated Hospital, Wenzhou Medical University, China, and major in Cardiology.

Long Jianyun is a resident doctor at Hangzhou First People’s Hospital, China.

Fang xin is the director of the department of Vascular Surgery in Hangzhou First People’s Hospital, China. And he major in Vascular and Endovascular Surgery. 

Competing interests: None declared. 


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  3. A guideline to prevent medical violence of workplace in China. DingXiangYuan. 2 November 2011. [In Chinese]
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  6. Nian-Cun Qiu, Miao-E Liu. Ying Jiang. Why Chinese medical students are walking away from medicine. Student BMJ 2015;23:g7552.