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China Health & Science

Proposal to Teach ‘Death Education’ in Chinese Schools Goes Trending on Weibo

Many Chinese families refuse end-of-life care for elderly patients for fear of appearing “unfilial.”

Brydon Brancart

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A proposal from Peking University Cancer Hospital’s chief physician and National People’s Congress member Dr. Gu Jin has become a top trending topic on Weibo this week.

The hashtags “Proposal to Launch Nationwide Death Education” (#建议全民开展死亡教育#) and “Proposal to Launch Death Education” (#建议开展死亡教育#) were already viewed over 340 million times on Thursday, just 24 hours after it came out.

In a video produced by Beijing News from this year’s annual ‘Two Sessions’ meeting, Dr. Gu Jin proposed that China should start “educating the nation on the topic of death.” Dr. Gu’s comments underline growing concerns over China’s death taboo.

As a cancer surgeon, Dr. Gu explained that he often encountered late-stage cancer patients. Although for these patients, even “extreme treatments” would no longer help, he discovered that families usually refuse to accept palliative care. By focusing on end-of-life care, providing relief and comfort, rather than medical cures, many family members worry that they might appear “unfilial,” Gu explains.

Concerned with being good family members, many Chinese do not want to expose their parents and grandparents to death. This aversion to death has deep historical roots.

According to Cheris Shun-Ching Chang, professor of sociology at Hong Kong University, Confucian silence on questions of death and folk Buddhist references to “a dark world (yinjian) and a cruel hell (diyue) historically account for the topic’s avoidance. She also points to commonplace fears that a premature death could mark the end of one’s lineage (Chan 2012,37). Although religious belief waned over the 20th century, Chan argues the taboo alone still has an “independent power in shaping human action.”

The damage caused by China’s taboo against discussions of death is not limited to a patient’s pain. Aversion to considering one’s demise keeps many from writing wills or registering as organ donors. What’s more, doctors give diagnoses to family members, not the patients themselves, leaving the patient completely in the dark, and the family with the difficult choice of how to proceed.

Dr. Gu believes that China’s conception of death is harmful to the country’s youth as well: “[Teen suicide] causes us great sorrow. It makes us feel that, when it comes to our conception of life, or respect for life, there is something lacking in our education.” He then proposed that educating students on the topic of life and death ought to begin in primary or middle school. “This will [teach] people to respect life and death.“

Many netizens expressed their support for changing Chinese cultural attitudes to death. “This is really of the utmost importance,” commented one netizen: “we mustn’t merely fear death, but ought to respect it.” Another person wondered whether death education ought to start in kindergarten.

Dr. Gu is not alone in the hopes of changing China’s conception of death. “The Dead,” a Weibo account with over half a million followers, provides netizens with a place to eulogize their lost loved ones and support those who have lost others. In an interview with What’s on Weibo, the team expressed a perspective in line with Dr. Gu, stating, “Working hard to live with an understanding of death is a lesson every Chinese person must learn.”

Some netizens argue that death is not the only subject insufficiently covered by China’s curriculum.  “[A lack of understanding about] death is not the only problem, [not] understanding love and sex has caused many problems [too],” wrote one netizen. “Love, sex, and death education ought to be simultaneously provided,” agreed another.

Dr. Gu’s proposal might lead to more discussions on ‘death education’ in Chinese schools in the time to come. As for love and sex education, that’s perhaps a topic for the next Two Sessions.

Also read: Weibo’s Digital Graveyard: Remembering the Dead on Chinese Social Media

By Brydon Brancart

References (other sources in-text through hyperlinks)

Chan, Cheris Shun-Ching. 2012. Marketing Death: Culture and the Making of a Life Insurance Market in China. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Featured Image by Photo by Josh Appel @joshappel

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©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Brydon Brancart is a writer and Chinese translator. Originally from California, he has lived in both Beijing and Shanghai. He is interested in understanding the role modern media trends play in shaping worldviews, personal identity, and social behavior.

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China Health & Science

Chinese Doctor Knocks Herself Out in Controversial Self-Experiment

Dr. Chen wanted to warn about the dangers of sevoflurane and other drugs.

Manya Koetse

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A female doctor has become a topic of discussion on Chinese social media for her self-experimentation with anesthesia.

Dr. Chen (陈大夫), a Nanjing doctor who works in the Obstetrics and Gynecology department, conducted the experiment in response to an ongoing discussion on whether or not a handkerchief dipped in inhalation anesthetics could cause immediate unconsciousness (“一捂就晕”).

The discussion was triggered by news of the death of a 23-year-old woman from Foshan, Guangdong Province, on February 8. The recent college graduate was found in a hotel room and it was later ruled that the cause of death was acute respiratory failure due to sevoflurane toxicity. The victim’s company supervisor, a 39-year-old man named Peng, is now suspected of fatally sedating and raping the young woman.

The case led to speculation among netizens whether or not sevoflurane could have knocked out the woman in seconds. There have been ongoing debates on the effects of general anesthetics used to sedate unsuspected victims, with some specialists arguing that it is not so easy to make someone slip into unconsciousness within a matter of seconds – saying it would take much longer than and only if an unusually high dosage is used.

Dr. Chen posted on February 10 that she was certain that it is possible for certain inhalation anesthetics to immediately make someone pass out, but her claim was refuted by others. The popular Weibo blogger Jiangning Popo (@江宁婆婆), a police officer, was one of the persons involved in the discussion claiming Chen was wrong.

Dr. Chen is active on Weibo under the handle @妇产科的陈大夫, and with over two million followers on her account, she is somewhat of a ‘celebrity’ doctor.

Instead of spending time arguing back and forth on the internet, Dr. Chen decided to put the issue to the test herself with an unopened bottle of sevoflurane that she had previously purchased for the planned sterilization of her dog. The sevoflurane had already passed its expiry date.

On February 16, Dr. Chen then asked someone else to film her doing the self-experiment and she posted the video on Weibo, in which she inhaled sevoflurane on a cloth. The doctor soon passed out in the video, which has since been deleted.

The experiment in the video lasts 64 seconds, and shows Chen:

– 00:01-00:06 Opening the bottle of sevoflurane
– 00:07-00:12 Preparing a cloth
– 00:13-00:23 Putting the sevoflurane on the cloth
– 00:23-00:26 Closing the cap of the bottle
– 00:27-00:28 Putting the cloth on her mouth and nose
– 00:29-01:33 = the time frame of losing consciousness (with first symptoms starting at 0:44) to going limp and falling on the floor (1:20) and being completely unconscious (1:21-1:33).

Dr. Chen’s experiment immediately sparked controversy after she posted the video on social media.

Although sevoflurane is a prescription drug and a controlled substance, it is also sold online as a type of drug. According to The Paper, the number of rape cases in China facilitated by drugs have risen over the past three years, with many ‘date rape drugs’ being sold and bought over the internet.

With sevoflurane being a controlled substance, Dr. Chen’s video triggered discussions on whether or not she was actually involving in a criminal act by doing the self-experiment. She also received criticism from within the medical community that she used this medication outside of the hospital environment.

Dr. Chen soon deleted the video herself and then called the police to personally explain and apologize for the incident, with the news soon going viral (#女医生拿自己做实验后报警并致歉#, 270 million views).

But despite the controversy, the doctor still defends her actions to some extend. Although Chen stated on February 17 that her self-experiment was “not right,” dangerous, and should never be imitated by anyone, she later also explained on her Weibo page that she thinks sevoflurane as a prescription drug is too easy to get your hands on and that the existing laws to prevent people from buying it are too weak.

The doctor has succeeded in raising public awareness on the dangers of these kinds of drugs. She also reminds both women and men never to leave their drink unattended, as the dangers of someone slipping something in your drink are real and the consequences can be grave.

As the incident has gone trending on Chinese social media, many commenters praise Dr. Chen for her experiment, while others also praise her for being transparent and admitting her mistakes.

 
By Manya Koetse
with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Health & Science

Applying China’s New Civil Code, Shanghai Court Annuls Marriage after Husband Hides HIV-positive Status from Wife

The court case triggered discussions on the need for premarital health checks.

Manya Koetse

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Jiang is HIV-positive but did not mention his status to his partner before getting married. Under China’s new civil code, the marriage is now annulled.

On January 4, a Shanghai court applied the new rules of China’s Civil Code for the first time to annul a marriage.

The Civil Code of the People’s Republic of China was adopted by the third session of the 13th National People’s Congress in May of last year and is effective since January 1st 2021. Some experts within China call the law a “milestone legislation” that will better protect people’s civil rights.

On Monday, January 4, a landmark court case in which the new civil code was applied for the first time in Shanghai went trending on Chinese social media.

The case involves a married couple of which the husband had failed to inform his wife that he was HIV positive before getting married.

In June of 2020, Mr. Jiang and Ms. Li got married after Li became pregnant. Afterward, Jiang confessed that he had been HIV-positive for multiple years, and was taking medication to control his disease.

Jiang alleged that, due to his medication, there was effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to his partner. But Li, who did not contract HIV, could not accept the situation and decided to terminate her pregnancy and applied for a marriage annulment.

Under the new civil code, annulment of marriage is possible when a partner who is “seriously ill” – which now includes HIV/AIDS – fails to inform their fiance of their condition before getting married.

Since Jiang had not informed his wife of his condition before tying the knot, the Shanghai Minhang Court ruled in Li’s favor and annulled the marriage.

On Weibo, the case has attracted a lot of attention, with one hashtag about the case (#男方婚前患艾滋未告知婚姻关系被撤销#) attracting 690 million views on Monday.

The news item also led to another hashtag gaining many views: “The Need for Premarital Medical Examination” (#婚前体检的必要性#) had 200 million views on its hashtag page on Monday.

One popular relationship blogger (@感情感分析异地恋) argues that the Shanghai court case shows the importance of couples getting a medical examination before getting married: “It’s not to discriminate against those who are HIV positive or who are suffering from other illnesses, but it’s about informing your partner about these things before getting married.”

Premarital health checks were previously compulsory in China, but these examinations are no longer required since 2003. Many couples do still go for premarital health checkups. According to Xinhua, over 61% of Chinese couples had a medical examination before getting married in 2018.

Although the application of China’s new civil code is generally praised by Weibo users in this case, it has previously also received a lot of negative attention. The new law also introduced a mandatory 30-day “cooling off” period for couples seeking divorce.

This “cooling off” period is seen as harmful to those who are suffering abuse within marriage and already have difficulties in leaving their abusive partner. The case of Lamu, a Tibetan vlogger who died after her husband set her on fire, also led to more online discussions of the “cooling off” period and how it makes women more vulnerable within their marriage.

By Manya Koetse

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©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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