May 18, 2012 06:59 PM

Death and Dying in the Provinces


As He Jin prepared herself for the process of dying, she did it alone. Diagnosed with the final stages of liver cancer, the 24-year-old woman from Angkang of Shaanxi Province died in April this year, receiving basic treatments from the hospital on a charitable basis. She lost touch with her parents long ago, and when her boyfriend learned of her illness he quietly walked away, leaving 1,000 yuan in cash.

The emotions that unfolded in public as her story circulated in nationwide media outlets indicated that something is deeply amiss in the health care system.

What does it take to die well? For Huang Nichao, another 24-year old woman, who was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) as a teen, peace of mind was tied to relieving her family of financial burdens for treatment.

Huang attempted to supplement the cost of her university tuition and medical expenses through part-time jobs. In her online diary she wrote: "The more I work, the worse the disease gets and the more I have to spend on my treatment. My family only becomes poorer. This is what compels me to work harder to earn more money." Her diary postings attracted media attention and Net users opened a relief fund for her, raising 200,000 yuan in donations. Huang died of SLE on March 18.

When the onset of death is quick, the terms between the patient and society appear to be simpler. But more discussion on terminal deaths has raised questions over the current state of medical institutions.

While the health care insurance system for urban residents kicked off in 2010, basic insurance coverage for the entire population has yet to be implemented.

According to Caixin estimates, between 2009 and 2011 the total investment from all levels of governments in the medical insurance system reached 732.6 billion yuan. But such payments fail to cover the terminally ill.

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