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Chinese woman's ills traced to 23 secret needles

/ Source: The Associated Press

Chinese surgeons will try to remove 23 needles from a woman that doctors believe may have been embedded under her skin by grandparents trying to kill her so that a baby boy might take her place.

The needles — about an inch in length — were discovered by X-ray after Luo Cuifen, 29, went to doctors complaining of blood in her urine.

Many of the needles have worked their way into Luo’s vital organs including her lungs, liver, bladder and kidneys, making their removal difficult, said Qu Rui, a spokesman for the Richland International Hospital in Yunnan province’s capital, Kunming.

He said six of the 23 needles, all of them in the woman’s abdomen, would be removed Tuesday in the first of several expected operations.

“Tomorrow’s surgery carries a definite degree of risk,” Qu said.

According to a hospital news release, Luo has for years suffered from severe depression and anxiety and long-term insomnia, and was completely unable to do any heavy lifting or hard physical labor.

The operation will involve 23 doctors in fields ranging from women’s medicine to neurology and including bone specialists and cardiologists, the news release said. Doctors from Canada and the United States will join those from China in the operation.

Qu said doctors believe the woman’s grandparents may have inserted the needles long ago, hoping she would die and her parents might have a boy in her place. China limits most families to just one child, although rural Chinese may be allowed to have a second if their first is a girl, subject to the payment of fines.

It wasn’t clear whether further investigations into the case were planned, with media reports saying Luo’s grandparents had already died.

In many parts of China, baby boys are still heavily favored over girls because they are bound by tradition to support their parents in their old age, and because they carry on the family name.

Infanticide and abortions of female fetuses have created a skewed ratio between the genders, with 119 boys reported born for every 100 girls, according to official figures. By comparison, the ratio in industrialized countries is between 104 and 107 boys for every 100 girls.