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Chinese Baby Girl’s Birth Defect Raises Discussion on Prenatal Screening Accuracy

The birth of an infant with physical abnormalities, despite recurrent prenatal screenings, has sparked discussions on Chinese social media. A running investigation will reveal whether the hospital can be held accountable.

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The birth of an infant with physical abnormalities, despite recurrent prenatal screenings, has sparked discussions on Chinese social media. A running investigation will reveal whether the hospital can be held accountable.

A Chinese baby girl has made the news after she was born with birth defects, despite 8 prenatal screenings allegedly showing no health problems in the unborn infant.

On August 26, the 26-year-old Youping Lin from Shenzhen gave birth to a baby girl. Although the woman told Chinese media the labor went well, she was shocked to learn her newborn had severe psychical abnormalities, with the right side of the face missing the nostril and ear. The baby’s right eye is also closed, Lin said.

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The baby girl, born in Shenzhen on August 26.

According to The Paper and Legal Evening News (November 8), the girl’s birth defects nearly made her mother “collapse” and has made her clinically depressed.

 

“In a total of 8 prenatal screenings and 5 ultrasounds, doctors repeatedly told Lin that the unborn baby was perfectly normal.”

 

In a total of 8 prenatal screenings and 5 ultrasounds, doctors told Lin that the unborn baby was perfectly normal.

A running investigation by a third party institution [not further defined in Chinese media reports] will reveal if the hospital can be held accountable for the baby’s birth defects.

Youping Lin got pregnant in late 2015 and went for her first prenatal testing in February of 2016 at the Futian Renmin Hospital in Shenzhen. The ultrasounds included one 3D ultrasound. At the time, the view on the right side of the unborn baby’s face was blocked by its own hand. Nevertheless, doctors told the mother the unborn baby was completely normal.

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According to The Paper, hospital representatives have stated that they have used all possible prenatal screenings to detect abnormalities. They also said that although it is extremely rare for birth defects such as these to go unnoticed in prenatal screenings, they cannot be completely ruled out.

A similar news story also came out earlier this year, when a woman gave birth to a baby that was missing one arm. The distressed mother told reporters that repeated ultrasounds also did not spot the fact that her unborn baby had a birth defect.

 

“In China, approximately 900,000 infants are born with a birth defect or disability every year.”

 

Worldwide, 6% of annual live births are affected by birth defects. China has a relatively high occurrence; approximately 900,000 infants are born with a birth defect or disability every year, which is around 5.6% of total newborns (Liu et al 2016, 3615). Pregnancy affected by serious anomalies is allowed to be terminated at any time of the pregnancy in the People’s Republic of China (Deng et al 2015, 312).

On the Sina Weibo social media platform, the case has led to a discussion on who is responsible for the child’s physical abnormalities.

Many commenters think that the hospital is responsible: “The fact that the doctor said the unborn child was normal, even while the right side of the face was blocked by its hand, shows that they had a low sense of responsibility; that was just wishful thinking,” one netizen comments.

“After 8 prenatal screenings, this did not come out?!”, another Weibo user comments.

As reported by The Paper, hospital representatives have admitted that doctors would normally do a second 3D ultrasound if the fetus is not fully visible in the first one, but that this was not done in the case of Youping Lin.

“Poor baby girl! Is there no way to do plastic surgery? The doctors should help,” one commenter says.

“This is up for the law to decide. Who ever is responsible should take responsibility,” another Weibo user comments.

“But how can this be compensated for?” another netizen wonders: “In the end, it is the child and its family that will suffer. What kind of compensation will lessen their suffering?” Others also agree, writing: “What does it matter who is responsible? What matters is what will happen to this girl.”

 

“Some families consider their disabled child a shameful secret to be hidden.”

 

Giving birth to a child with severe physical abnormalities and/or disability has a huge impact on Chinese parents and families. People with disabilities are often stigmatized in China. A large number of disabled young children have no access to education because schools refuse to accept them.

Due to the ubiquitous stigmatization and discrimination, some families even consider their disabled child a “shameful secret to be hidden” (Coonan 2016).

Another major burden to Chinese households living with a child with a birth defect or disability is that it greatly affects their living standard. Without access to public welfare, medical treatments can be very costly or even unaffordable to some families. In Disability Policy in China (2016), the director of a large State Child Welfare institution is quoted telling about a 4-year-old girl that was abandoned at the Tianjin Railway station; the institution’s staff found that the girl had already had two major surgeries and that she needed just one more operation in order to survive (Mendes & Srighantan 2009, 1).

With such heavy burdens, many expecting parents will choose to terminate pregnancies when the unborn baby is diagnosed with a birth defect. In the case of Down Syndrome, around 95% of Chinese women terminate their pregnancy after learning the syndrome is detected in the fetus.

China’s Ministry of Health has promoted nationwide prenatal screenings for birth defects since 2003 (Deng et al 2015, 312). As pointed out in recent Chinese research, there has since been a sharp increase in the percentage of prenatal diagnosis and consequential birth termination (ibid., 315).

 

“Poor baby, I hope the parents will not ignore her and take care of her.”

 

Many Chinese netizens reflect on this news story and think about their own family. Discussions about the ethical issue of possible abortion for fetal abnormality, that is more prevalent in western countries, seem practically absent on Chinese social media. One of the main issues under discussion is the cost of prenatal screenings and their trustworthiness – this story concerned many mothers-to-be: “As an expectant mother, this news really worries me,” one woman replies.

Another person writes: “I am so very happy my baby is healthy. I also feel bad for this family that will be so burdened from now on, poor girl.”

“Poor baby, I hope the parents will not ignore her and take care of her,” one commenter says. Other Weibo users are also concerned about the girl’s future: “What will her life look like? She will endure much pain, just as her parents.”

– By Manya Koetse
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References

Coonan, Clifford. 2016. “Paralympic success challenges China’s attitude to disability.” Irish Times (October 3) http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/asia-pacific/paralympic-success-challenges-china-s-attitude-to-disability-1.2813993 [8.11.16].

Deng, C., Yi, L., Mu, Y., Zhu, J., Qin, Y., Fan, X., Li, Q. & Dai, L. 2015. “Recent trends in the birth prevalence of Down syndrome in China: impact of prenatal diagnosis and subsequent terminations.” Prenatal Diagnosis, 35(4): 311–318.

Liu, Q.-G., Sun, J., Xiao, X., & Song, G.-R. 2016. “Birth Defects Data from Surveillance Hospitals in Dalian City, China, 2006-2010.” The Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine, 7058 (November): 1–22.

Mendes, Errol, and Sakunthala Srighantan (ed). 2009. Confronting Discrimination and Inequality in China: Chinese and Canadian Perspectives. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press.

NB: other references are linked to in-text.

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Health & Science

Footage Shows Mysterious Flashes Before Qinghai Earthquake

The flashes of light seen in the sky right before the Qinghai earthquake have become a trending topic on Weibo.

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Videos of the January 8th quake, which occurred in Qinghai’s Menyuan county, appear to show several intense flashes of light filling the night sky immediately preceding the quake. The videos have sparked debate among Chinese internet users as to the explanation for the brilliant lights, with some referencing the little-understood phenomenon of “Earthquake Lights.”

On January 8 at approximately 1:45 AM, Menyuan County in the Haibei Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in China’s Qinghai Province was struck by a magnitude 6.9 earthquake, damaging several homes and causing minor injuries to four people.

Photos of buildings in the area show shattered wall tiling and window glass, a partial ceiling collapse, and other minor structural damage. The area around the quake’s epicenter is sparsely populated, but tremors could be felt in numerous nearby cities including Zhangye, Wuwei, Jinchang, Lanzhou, and Linxia Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu, as well as causing railway closures along the Qinghai-Tibet and Lanzhou-Qinghai high-speed rail lines, Jiangxi Daily reports.

The earthquake was followed by several subsequent quakes, including 5 quakes of lesser magnitude all within the hour.

According to the China Earthquake Administration, the quakes continued into the 9th, with a magnitude 3.2 earthquake recorded in Menyuan county at 0:44 on January 9th.

CCTV footage shot moments before the quake and shared widely on Weibo captured a bright, explosive flash of light, which quickly disappears before a second, shorter flash lights up the night sky, followed immediately by tremors.

The footage intrigued Chinese netizens, with the hashtag “Intense Flash of Light on the Horizon Before the Qinghai Earthquake” (#青海地震前地平线出现耀眼强光#) accumulating over 100 million views by Sunday and giving rise to debate over the cause of the strange lights. Other videos capturing the flash from different angles show only one flash, or several smaller flashes along the horizon.

Much of the debate centered around whether this was a case of “Earthquake Lights” (地光/地震光, also EQLs), a controversial phenomenon among scientists which is sometimes reported before high-magnitude earthquakes, such as Italy’s 2009 L’Aquila quake.

Just before and after quakes begin, witnesses have reported seeing unexplainable light phenomena in a range of colors, ranging from brilliant white flashes as bright as daylight to a blue, flame-like glow hovering above the earth.

Explanations range from the ionization of oxygen in rocks under intense stress, piezoelectric or triboluminescent phenomena, and leaks of radioactive ionizing gas into the atmosphere to more mundane sources, such as the flailing of damaged power lines. Sometimes the lights were also said to come from UFOs or explained them in religious terms, but a 2014 study refuted this and linked the phenomenon to rift environments.

Interestingly, this is not the first time the phenomenon has been reported to precede a major earthquake in China. Some Weibo users remarked that “Earthquake Lights” had been seen before the disastrous 1976 Tangshan earthquake, which damaged or destroyed vast swathes of that city and killed over 240,000 people. Two movies depicting the quake, After the Blue Light Flashes.. (蓝光闪过之后..) and The Great Tangshan Earthquake (唐山大地震) both feature scenes of mysterious bright lights illuminating the night sky moments before tremors began.

Strange lights were also reported in the sky in Tianshui, Gansu province, preceding the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

Other Weibo users remained unconvinced about the strange lights being mysterious Earthquake Lights. “Don’t freak out over it,” one user wrote: “It’s just a downed power line.”

Another online video features commentary from seismologist Chen Huizhong (陈会忠) of the China Earthquake Administration, who explains the flashes as an electrical transformer exploding, noting that footage from another angle shows the tremors damaging electrical lines in the distance, which begin sparking and showing obvious signs of damage. This damage, however, occurs after the tremors have already started, and does not seem to explain the bright flashes which lit up the sky immediately preceding the tremors.

Still others suggested that radon gas leaking from underground as the earth shifted could have caused the flash.

While the debate rages on between proponents and skeptics of “Earthquake Lights,” a third group of online commenters has already made up their minds: the Weibo fans of prominent Chinese science fiction writer and The Three-Body Problem author Liu Cixin (刘慈欣), wasted no time in heralding the coming of extraterrestrial invaders.

“Looking forward to a scientific explanation,” wrote one user: “As for me, I think it’s the first step in an alien attack.” The user’s post ended with the hashtag, “The Sophon from Three-Body Problem has arrived!”

 
By Luke Jacobus

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China Health & Science

Chinese Student Forced to Undergo “Fake Surgery” and Borrow Money While Lying on the Operating Table

The 17-year-old girl from Shaanxi underwent surgery for no reason at all, without her parents’ consent.

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The story of a 17-year-old girl who was forced to undergo a “fake surgery” at Shaanxi’s Ankang Xing’an Hospital has gone viral on Chinese social media.

One of the netizens to break the story on social media is the Weibo user @QinguanSihai (@秦观四海, 90,000+ followers), who posted about the incident on October 6.

According to the post, the incident occurred on October 4 when a young woman named Lu went online to seek medical attention because she was not feeling well. Since there was an available spot for a medical consultation at the private Ankang Xing’an Hospital, Lu went to see a doctor there.

While she was at the hospital in the city of Ankang, the woman allegedly was directly taken to the operating room and placed on the operating table after a short consultation; not for a medical examination, but for surgery.

The girl initially thought she was undergoing a routine medical check. As the surgery was already underway, the doctor stopped to let Lu sign some papers and then asked her if she could gather the money to pay for her medical procedure. When Lu protested and demanded to get off the surgery table, the doctor warned her that she was losing blood and that interrupting the procedure would be life-threatening.

Lying on the operating table, Lu called some of her friends to gather the money, all the while being pressured by the doctor that the money she had (1200 yuan/$185) was not enough to cover for the costs of surgery – which was still ongoing. The doctor allegedly even told Lu to get more money via the Alipay ‘Huabei’ loaning app.

Lu’s parents, who were contacted by concerned friends, soon showed up at the hospital as the doctor hastily ended the surgery. The parents, who were furious to discover their underage daughter had undergone a medical procedure without their consent, became even more upset when they later found out that Lu had undergone surgery to remove cervical polyps, while Lu’s medical reports showed that she actually had no cervical polyps at all. No reason could be found for their healthy daughter to have been operated on her cervix.

After Lu’s story went viral on social media, local authorities quickly started an investigation into the matter and soon confirmed that the story was real. An initial statement said that Angkang Xing’an Hospital is at fault for performing surgery on a minor without the consent of a guardian or parent. It was also recognized that the hospital has committed serious ethical violations. The hospital, located on 78 Bashan Middle Road (巴山中路), is now temporarily closed, and the doctor in question has since been fired.

Many Chinese netizens are angered about the incident, calling private hospitals such as Ankang Xing’an a “disgrace” to China’s healthcare industry.

This is by no means the first time that malpractices at Chinese local hospitals or clinics trigger online controversy. Various incidents that previously went viral show how some clinics put commercial interests above the health of their patients, and how some doctors think they can get away with abusing and scamming their patients.

In 2016, the death of the 21-year-old cancer patient Wei Zexi (魏则西) sparked online outrage. Wei Zexi, who shared his medical experiences on social media, spent 200,000 RMB to receive contested form of immunotherapy at the Beijing Armed Police Corps No. 2 Hospital (武警二院). The treatment, that was promoted on China’s leading search engine Baidu, was actually completely ineffective and the advertising for it was false.

By now, one hashtag relating to the Ankang incident has received over 270 million views on Weibo (#官方通报无病女生被推上手术台#), with other relating hashtags also circulating on social media (#家属回应无病女学生被迫手术#, #无病女学生被推上手术台涉事医院停业整顿#).

“This can’t be a real hospital, right?!” some worried netizens write, with others expressing the hopes that the medical institution will be severely punished for their wrongdoings.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

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

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