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Medical costs force Chinese family to choose who gets treatment

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 15/5/2019 Laurie Chen
a close up of a man: An elderly Chinese couple has been forced to choose between medical treatment for their son or for their daughter-in-law after both were admitted to hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning. Photo: Weibo © Weibo An elderly Chinese couple has been forced to choose between medical treatment for their son or for their daughter-in-law after both were admitted to hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning. Photo: Weibo

An elderly couple in northern China faced the heartbreaking choice of whether to continue medical treatment for their son or their daughter-in-law when both were hospitalised with carbon monoxide poisoning.

The son, 38-year-old taxi driver Chen Gang, and his 36-year-old wife Yang Hongyan lost consciousness while burning a coal stove in their home at a village near Yan’an in Shaanxi province.

They were admitted to Yan’an People’s Hospital on March 20 where Chen was diagnosed as "more than 50 per cent brain-dead” and in need of an amputation, East Day News reported on Tuesday.

The family’s meagre income could not cover the medical costs and the decision was made at the beginning of April to bring Chen home, where he is fed through a permanent IV drip and needs round-the-clock care from his parents.

Chen regained consciousness a few days ago but still cannot speak, while his wife remains in the hospital’s intensive care unit and is also unable to speak.

They have a 14-year-old son and a daughter aged seven.

Chen’s brother, Chen Yang, told East Day News that the family had already spent more than 200,000 yuan (US$29,000) on medical treatment, helped by donations of 130,000 yuan from his online crowdfunding efforts.

"My brother has two kids and my dad finally thought that, since he was in this state, his chance of a full recovery through treatment was uncertain,” Chen said.

"To look after two sick people at once costs too much. My dad said this was not possible, and he had to give up on my brother and put the money towards treating my sister-in-law instead.”

Chen Gang’s stay in intensive care was costing the family more than 20,000 yuan each day, while treatment for his wife, whose condition is less severe, amounts to more than 10,000 yuan per day.

"If we use what little money we have to treat both of them, there is a chance that we may not be able to save both in the end and the kids would have no parents, so my dad had no choice but to do this,” Chen Yang said.

The family is now receiving donations from supporters on messaging app WeChat, as well as fundraising assistance from the China Social Welfare Foundation.

Chen Yang said the family hoped to get more suitable medical treatment for his brother once they had enough money.

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia. 

Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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