A Chinese peasant woman who suffered a brain hemorrhage was left at the undertakers alive for cremation because her family could no longer afford hospital treatment, state media said on Friday.
She was only saved by the tears in her eyes.
The case is the latest in a series of tragedies illustrating China’s stretched health care system and the inability of rural workers to meet spiraling medical costs.
You Guoying, a 47-year-old migrant worker from southwestern Sichuan province, was taken for cremation by her husband and children in Taizhou, eastern Zhejiang province, where she worked, the China Youth Daily said.
Fortunately for You, the undertaker realized she was still alive when he saw her move and tears in her eyes, the newspaper said.
“This is not only a tragedy for the family, but also for society,” it quoted Xu Yinghe, a Taizhou official, as saying.
“The fundamental reason is the absence of a social welfare system.”
You was taken back to hospital for further treatment with money donated by sympathetic citizens of prosperous Zhejiang, the newspaper said.
“Three days of treatment cost us more than 10,000 yuan ($1,200),” it quoted her daughter as saying, adding that was the sum of the family’s life savings.
“If there had been another option, who would have the heart to send a member of their own family for cremation while there was still a hope of survival?”
The newspaper did not say if the family would face charges.
Too poor to afford treatment
Vice Health Minister Zhu Qingsheng said last December that about half of all farmers could not afford medical treatment when sick.
A 42-year-old farmer too poor to afford treatment for lung cancer set off a home-made bomb aboard a bus in Fuzhou, capital of the southeastern province of Fujian, in August, killing himself and another passenger and wounding 30.
Also in August, a security guard hailed a hero for fighting off a purse snatcher jumped to his death from a hospital window in south Guangxi province because he couldn’t afford the bills.
In the late 1970s, 94 percent of China’s villagers were covered by cooperative medical schemes. But the collectives were disbanded during market reforms of the 1980s which ended cradle-to-grave welfare for the masses.