Friday, 23 May 2014

China: medical procedures are now dictated by fortune tellers

by Michael Woodhead 
In the west, patients often do their ‘homework’ by consulting medical books and websites before seeing a doctor – but in China patients are doing their homework with fortune tellers. A new report shows that patients are relying on fortune tellers to decide what date they will have an operation, when to have a caesarean section and even to guide cosmetic surgery for a more ‘fortunate’ face.
At a Liaoning Hospital, head of nursing Ren Yumei says about 80% of women choose to have a caesarean section birth, and many of them are done so they can select the ‘auspicious’ date and time selected for their child’s birth from fortune tellers consulting the books of the “Great Immortals’.
“Many women and their families demand not just the day but the hour of birth according to horoscopes, they won’t accept any deviation,” she says.
In Anshan, head surgeon Wang Yongshen says the same thing is now happening with patients requiring elective surgery. Patients demand a specific time for the operation – sometimes even in the early hours of the morning.
“Even when they know that surgery in the middle of the night is likely to be less safe and effective they opt for it because of the influence of the fortune tellers,” he says. And when hospitals refuse these unscientific requests, patients turn to smaller private clinics that are happy to cash in on the new fad for ‘auspiciously timed medical procedures’, even though their medical standards are often suspect.
Obstetric nurse Ren Yumei says she is concerned to see mothers and families putting their baby’s health at risk by forcing an early delivery just to have a ‘lucky’ birth timing. She says the health risks of premature birth are well known, including respiratory and developmental problems as well as blood and cardiovascular risks.
A surgeon at a cosmetic clinic in Shenyang says he even sees patients who wish to change their appearance based on advice from fortune tellers. He had one young man who insisted on having surgery to give him a bigger chin because this would make him appear more bold and daring, in accordance with his horoscope, according to an adviser. He went ahead with the operation despite medical advice that it would restrict his jaw movement.
Professor Zhang Bao of the Tianjin Institute for Social Sciences says the new trend is anti-scientific and a remnant of ‘old thinking’ superstitious ignorance. He said the two schools of thought could not co-exist and there would be a collision between the two.
He said many ‘fortune tellers’ were in business for personal gain and they made extravagant claims that had no regard for the welfare of the patient. He said such practices should be strictly supervised and exposed for what they are. If they continued to provide harmful advice fortune tellers should be prosecuted and punished, he said.
The original report is published by Xinhua.

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