Pregnant Woman’s Suicide Spurs Heated Debate in China

By Matthew Bossons, September 7, 2017

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The Chinese internet burst into a collective uproar this week, with netizens expressing understandable shock at reports that a 26-year-old pregnant woman jumped to her death from the window of a Shaanxi province hospital on August 31.

The reason for her life-ending decision? The refusal (by whom exactly is still the topic of heated debate) of her request to deliver the baby via caesarean section (C-section).

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Forty-one weeks pregnant, the woman, surnamed Ma, arrived at the First Hospital of Yulin’s maternity ward last Wednesday, August 30. According to a statement from the hospital that has since gone viral, when examined by doctors, Ma was told that "the large fetal head circumference meant that vaginal delivery would have been very risky."

Attending physicians recommended Ma deliver the child by C-section, something Ma’s husband and family were reportedly not too keen on.

“The family said they understood, but refused the surgery, and wanted to keep the situation under observation," reads the hospital’s statement.

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The exact relationship of the family members who were at the hospital has not been disclosed, although speculation is rampant that they were the in-laws of the pregnant woman. 

A report by South China Morning Post states that the family insisted on a natural birth. As per Chinese law, family members have to consent before hospital staff can conduct surgery.

According to hospital records, the pregnant woman left the ward twice to inform her family of her desire to have a C-section, because “she could no longer bear the pain.” The family refused her request, maintaining Ma should have a natural birth.

At around 8pm on August 31, Ma jumped from the fifth-floor window of the maternity ward. Both expectant mother and fetus were killed.

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While the hospital’s initial statement neglected to mention why the family refused their recommendation for a C-section, the head of the medical facility mentioned two reasons yesterday: one, that relatives believed the hospital wanted to conduct a caesarean due to the higher cost of the procedure, and two, because the practice can complicate a second pregnancy.

Ma’s husband, identified in reports as Mr. Yan, has not taken the hospital’s allegations sitting down. According to Sina News, Yan said that the situation at the time made him nervous, and he told the doctor to find someone "familiar with caesarean procedures."

Yan also stated that, on two occasions, he gave permission to the doctors to perform a C-section, but that he was told it would no longer be necessary as delivery would happen soon naturally.

The hospital has refuted Yan’s claims, noting that he signed a waiver declaring he comprehended his wife’s condition and the possible ramifications of not following the doctors’ recommendation to have a caesarean.

Surveillance footage taken from the maternity ward was also released by the hospital, and shows a visibly distraught Ma kneeling on the floor and speaking with her family.

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Officials from the First Hospital of Yulin contend that the pregnant woman was pleading with her family to allow the procedure in the footage, while Ma’s family contends she was crouched down due to the immense pain she was in.

While we can’t speak for all Chinese internet users, it appears that most netizens have bought into the hospital's version of the events, with many noting it’s unlikely doctors would have turned down the additional money a C-section would have brought the hospital.

“Only a person close to her could make the woman jump out of a building, not possibly doctors,” wrote one netizen. Another commented: “A sinful family. If it was a normal family and a lovely husband, why would she have jumped out of the building?”

Regardless of whose side of the story is more accurate, many netizens have taken aim at the policy that allowed the situation to transpire in the first place: namely, the woman’s inability to consent to the C-section herself.

“Besides the pregnant woman, nobody else should have had a say,” reads one highly-cited web comment.

[Images via NextShark, South China Morning Post, Weibo]

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