Chinese Migrants Get Short Shrift Over Brain-Damaged Daughter


2004.11.13
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HONG KONG—A migrant worker couple in the southern Chinese boomtown of Shenzhen has described years of misery and official stonewalling, as they struggle to win compensation for medical mistakes and a better life for their brain-damaged daughter.

Deng Zebiao and Deng Guiying are migrant workers in Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong. Their three-year-old daughter Deng Xin suffers from serious brain damage, which her parents believe is the result of severe medical negligence.

Different from other babies

When the results for my daughter’s illness came out, one of my relatives told me to abandon her on the street or let her die.

Deng Zebiao told RFA’s Mandarin service that he noticed Deng Xin was unusual soon after her birth at the Shajing Township Hospital.

"After a couple of days, I noticed that the two other babies in the same ward cried a lot and they made lots of noises when they were fed. Mine didn’t," Deng told RFA's Investigative Report.

"I asked the doctor why my child was different from the other two babies.

"'She never cries,' I said. The doctor answered: ‘What’s wrong with that? Isn’t it a good thing for the kid to be quiet?’ The doctor’s words made me very happy."

Deng Xin still cannot speak and shows no signs of identifying people. She has problems standing, sitting, and crawling. Her mental and physical growth are seriously stunted.

‘She never cries,’ I said. The doctor answered: ‘What’s wrong with that? Isn’t it a good thing for the kid to be quiet?’

Her parents have repeatedly filed complaints against the Shajing Township Hospital and the Bao’An District hospital and even filed a lawsuit against the doctor but met with no success.

A visit to the more technologically advanced Zhongshan University First Hospital also failed to address Deng Xin's problems.

Overcharging dispute caused problems

“The consultation results showed that the kid was normal. I took the negatives back to the doctor," Deng Zebiao said.

"She said: ‘If the experts said it is OK, I assume your daughter is OK.’ Since everyone said my daughter was OK. I assumed that she was fine. When the doctors said she had no problems, I trusted them," he told RFA.

Deng Xin suffers from severe jaundice caused by cerebral palsy, which should have been acted upon within a month of her birth. But her father had made an open complaint about overcharging at the Shajing Township Hospital and now believes that that confrontation set back his daughter's treatment prospects irretrievably.

Kicked around from pillar to post

The Dengs' chief concern is that without medical intervention, their daughter's chances of a better life are getting slimmer by the day. Without treatment, she could end up paralyzed for the rest of her life.

Deng has written letters and visited the Shenzhen Municipal Government, the Shenzhen Municipal People’s Congress, the Shenzhen Municipal Political Consultative Committee, the Shenzhen Municipal Women’s Federation, the Shenzhen Association for the Disabled, and the Shenzhen Municipal Committee of the Youth League.

"I have visited all government agencies that I could access, but have accomplished nothing. It was really disappointing," Deng said. "They kicked us around like a soccer ball. They even lost my files. I’m in despair. I sometimes want to die, perhaps by jumping from a tall building."

A doctor at the Shajing Township hospital said she wasn’t familiar with the Dengs' case when contacted by Investigative Report.

Doctors can't recall case

"I don’t know. Without seeing the patient, I can’t speculate," she told RFA. "I see so many patients a day—how can I remember an individual patient? You have to bring her CAT scan results to me before I can say what it is."

Chen Haotian, president of the Bao-an District People’s Hospital, said he was also unfamiliar with Deng Xin’s case, although the Dengs have already filed a medical negligence case against his hospital.

"Did you say he used to be a patient at this hospital for treatment of brain damage? I don’t know the case well. Why don’t you ask him to come and look for the doctor who used to treat his daughter," Chen said.

Deng said if Deng Xin's condition had been treated within a month of her birth, the likelihood of a cure was more than 98 percent, and still within 90 percent within three months.

No prospect of a life

"If you drag it on a little longer, the rate of cure is zero. That means she will never recover. She will live like a vegetable, without the ability to learn about anything going on in the world," he said.

The Dengs have been stunned by their daughter's misfortune, and their treatment at the hands of China's health care system.

"When the results for my daughter’s illness came out, one of my relatives told me to abandon her on the street or let her die. I said, ‘She is my daughter—how can I do such a ruthless thing?’” Deng, weeping, told RFA.

"Even if she is not my daughter or if she is someone I picked up from the street, I still have the responsibility to take care of her. This is the basic duty of a parent."

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