On Tuesday morning, a medical lawsuit was brought to the People's Court of Shanghai, Xujiahui District.
Four experts from Beijing were appointed as attorneys for the Zhou Zhenhua couple, the prosecutors. Their adversaries were the Shanghai Children's Hospital and the Shanghai East Hospital. The couple has accused them of incurring the wrongful death of Zhou Yiqing, their son, after he received two separate heart operations from the Shanghai East Hospital.
More and more evidence has emerged, giving a better perspective on the case. Evidence infers that the Shanghai East hospital aided some foreign medical establishments, acting as laboratories to conduct human experiments on nonconsensual or unknowing Chinese patients.
"We have met with pressure from the outset. The case took a long time to come to court," Mr. Zhou recounted to Nanfang Metropolis News. Over a two-year period the couple sought out the truth regarding their son. They were tipped off that their son had probably been used as an experimental subject and that he had died from the suspect artificial heart embedded in his body. The artificial heart was foreign-made; it had not been officially registered with the Chinese State Food and Drug Administration.
Zhou Yiqing was hospitalized in the Shanghai Children's Hospital on April 16, 2004. There he was diagnosed with primary dilative heart disease. On April 22, the Children's Hospital invited Liu Zhongmin, dean of Shanghai East Hospital, for a group consultation. On the evening of that day, Zhou Yiqing received an artificial heart implantation. On July 15, 2005, the East Hospital performed a second operation, transplanting a donor heart into Zhou. Only half month later, the 13-year-old boy died.
The couple charged that: "Any medical devices, including an artificial heart, cannot be utilized in clinic practice until a national license has been obtained. Sufficient evidence has revealed that the East Hospital has violated the regulations by implanting a trial medical device into my son's body and thus caused his ensuing death. In addition, the hospital performed a stem cell transplant on him which turned out to be still at a trial stage."
The couple filed suit for 990,694.5 yuan, including death compensation and spiritual damage compensation, Nanfang Metropolis News reported.
Court proceedings lasted two hours; an adjournment followed. The date to resume sessions is still indefinite.
"The lawsuit is destined to be a prolonged one, because there is more than meets the eye," Zhuo Xiaoqin, their attorney said. The seasoned lawyer thought it was not a common medical case. Local hospitals and foreign medical institutions who conduct illegal medical practices are both embroiled. The implanted artificial heart used on Zhou Yiqing was manufactured in Berlin at the HeartAG Company. The hospital also engaged American and French institutions under the auspices of cell and urology research, thus forming an interest group.
Mr. Zhuo prompted the government to review and draft related laws and regulations in order to straighten things out in the medical research and organ trade.
After the media blew the whistle on the nonconsensual human experiment scandal, a reputed doctor Chen Xiaolan stepped in and aided the investigation. She went all out to get an official testimonial from the State Food and Drug Administration, attesting that the artificial heart ground in Berlin HeartAG Company had not received any official registration.
Things got worse when they found more evidence on the diseased body. Besides scars left after the two heart operations, a piece of thigh muscle had been removed, indicating that the surgeon had attempted to culture muscle cells on the innocent boy.
The culture and transplanting of stem cells and muscle cells are regarded as edge-cutting research whose curative effect still unknown.
"In China, conducting human experiments before receiving approval from the State Food and Drug Administration is unethical. The Medical Ethics Committee censors such experimental schemes. The potential subject should be well informed of potential hazards and effects that may befall a patient," Qiu Zongren, a source from Asian Ethics Committee said,"In light of this case, the hospital apparently performed a trial cell operation despite potential harmful effects."
After the scandal was brought to light, the Shanghai Clinical Application Committee on Human Body Transplants was established. They began investigating how hospitals qualify to perform human organ transplants. They are investigating a dozen hospitals including Shanghai East Hospital.
"According to the international codes of practice, medical research conducts animal testing prior to human experimentation, with each period entailing myriad resources and time," Ms. Chen reported. She suspected that some foreign pharmaceutical companies had performed human experiments on unknowing patients in China, almost simultaneously as they conducted animal testing in their own land.
"Unsound Chinese law has played into the hands of some foreign medical institutions. They wanted to conduct human experiments in order to save money and speed up their R&D. Chinese patients who expected better treatment ended up in jeopardy," Mr. Qiu told Nanfang Metropolis News a few days ago.
(Nanfang Metropolis News, translated for China.org.cn by He Shan, July 26, 2007)