The parents of Wei Zexi, a computer science major at Xidian University in Shaanxi province who died of a rare form of cancer, wait outside a funeral home in Xianyang, Shaanxi, on April 13. WAN JIA / FOR CHINA DAILY
Ten military staff members, including two in charge of the hospital that offered an experimental cancer therapy to a young man who died last month, have been punished.
The punishments were handed out after an investigation confirmed the hospital's malpractice in business collaboration and the posting of misleading medical advertisements.
Two leaders from the Second Hospital of the Beijing Armed Police Corps were dismissed and six others received demerits.
Two other officials from higher military authorities who oversaw the hospital were given warnings for inadequate supervision, a statement from the Beijing Armed Police Corps said on Tuesday.
Two other individuals who collaborated with the hospital have been transferred to judicial organs on suspicion of having committed crimes, the statement said, without disclosing their identity.
Wei Zexi, a 21-year-old student from Shaanxi province, died on April 12 from synovial sarcoma, a rare cancer, after taking a type of immunotherapy at the hospital's biomedical center outsourced to private entities. In an online posting before his death, Wei said he was recommended the hospital while searching for the disease on Baidu, China's equivalent of Google.
No direct link has been established between Wei's death and the treatment he received.
The case has attracted widespread public attention, however, as it exposed the controversial paid listing business that Baidu relied on — which ranks search results based on the price advertisers pay — and the poor supervision of some military hospitals.
Military hospitals are not under the jurisdiction of government health authorities. Instead, health bureaus of the Central Military Commission and the national Armed Police Force oversee military-affiliated medical institutes. This creates management loopholes for some hospitals as military rules are not as transparent as government regulations.
Patients who received similar therapy at the hospital said they were not satisfied with the investigation results, and demanded more details and refunds.
A 33-year-old housewife from Shanxi province said the statement failed to mention whether patients involved in such therapy can get refunds.
She received a course of immunotherapy at the hospital last month and paid 28,000 yuan ($4,300) after being diagnosed with human papillomavirus infection, a sexually transmitted disease. Her condition worsened after the therapy, and she later quit the reatment.
She said she is considering joining other patients to petition higher authorities.
A man surnamed Chen said his mother had received similar treatment for cervical cancer. "I think it (the statement) did not respond to our major concerns," he said.
The hospital stopped receiving patients on Wednesday.
Liu Yuanli, dean of the School of Public Health at Beijing Union Medical College, urged the government or academic groups in China to set up independent Internet search services particularly for medical and healthcare-related information.