BEIJING: Investigators in China's Shaanxi Province have determined that a hospital had been negligent in a case that led to a pregnant woman jumping to death.
Ma Rongrong, 26, had gone to a hospital in Yulin on Aug 31 with unbearable labour pains. For hours, she had begged for a C-section to ease her agony. After multiple requests were refused, she jumped five floors from a hospital window to her death.
Ma's family and her doctors have traded blame for denying her the surgery that could have eased her suffering.
The hospital said it recommended that Ma undergo a caesarean because a the baby's head was big, meaning vaginal delivery would be risky. It claimed, however, that her husband and family insisted on natural birth in the belief it was better for the child.
As evidence, the hospital posted Ma's surgery log on its official social media account, showing that the family had denied her requests.
Ma had signed an authorisation granting her husband the right to make medical decisions on her behalf, it said, adding the hospital therefore "had no right to change the delivery method without (his) consent".
But Ma's husband, Yan Zhuangzhuang, told the Beijing Youth Daily that he had agreed to his wife's surgery, and it was the doctor who said it was unnecessary.
On Thursday (Sep 7), an investigation panel comprising officials with the health and public security departments in Yulin city decided this was a case of suicide and not homicide.
It also ruled that the hospital had been negligent in its care of the patient, and was not prepared for an emergency.
Under Chinese law, the decision should have been made by the person herself, according to Feng Lihua, an expert on medical disputes at Beijing's Zhongdun Law Firm.
"It cannot be authorised by other people," he told AFP.
The tragedy has attracted intense attention in China, with many wondering how Ma could be denied such a common procedure.
By the end of the week the hashtag "Yulin pregnant woman jumps to death" was the third highest trending topic on the Twitter-like Weibo, especially after leaked security footage showing Ma on her knees in front of her family in a hospital corridor went viral.
The incident has sparked a national discussion on everything from the high cost of health care and patients' rights to the dangers of traditional Chinese family values.
Some commenters argued the family was not able or willing to pay for the surgery - a common problem in a country where anything other than the most basic medical care can be out of reach for the average person.
"The hospital wants to limit C-sections and the families don't want to spend money," said one commenter, airing a view that was widely expressed on social media.
"This type of system and this type of family produced this type of tragedy."
Others have wondered whether government policy was at least partly to blame for Ma's death.
In response to the uproar, the official People's Daily said in an editorial that no matter who is ultimately to blame, the incident should serve as a national wake-up call.
"It is necessary to pay more attention to pregnant women's feelings, and pay greater respect to their autonomy," it said.
"We need to have more empathetic understanding and care for them. We cannot only think about policies and interests."