BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A pregnant woman's relatives and a hospital in Yulin, Shaanxi province, are blaming each other for rejecting the woman's request to have a caesarean section, which allegedly led to her jumping to her death from the fifth floor of the hospital.
The 26-year-old woman, Ms Ma Rongrong, who was a week away from delivery, was admitted to the First Hospital of Yulin to give birth on Aug 30, the hospital said in a statement on Sunday (Sept 3).
Medical checks showed that the baby's head was bigger than normal, suggesting higher risks during natural birth, the statement said.
Ms Ma's doctor advised her and her family to have a caesarean section, but her family refused and signed a document at the hospital confirming that Ms Ma would deliver naturally, the statement said.
She was transferred to the delivery room on Aug 31, but later left the room several times because of pain. She asked her husband to allow a caesarean section. Her doctor and nurses also advised her husband to allow the surgery, but all requests were rejected, the statement said.
Ms Ma became emotional and lost control due to pain, and jumped out of the building later that day and died, the statement said.
Mr Yan Zhuangzhuang, Ms Ma's husband, said in a statement that she left the delivery room at about 6pm on Aug 31, adding that his wife had asked to have a caesarean section and that he had agreed immediately.
The husband's statement said the doctor checked his wife's condition and said she was going to give birth soon and did not need a caesarean section.
After more than an hour, a nurse came out of the delivery room and told him that Ms Ma had disappeared. He later saw Ms Ma's body being lifted from the ground and put onto a stretcher, the statement said.
According to Huashang Daily, Ms Ma fell from the fifth floor of an inpatient building at about 8pm on Aug 31 and died after rescue efforts failed. The police ruled out foul play.
Neither Mr Yan nor the hospital answered phone calls from China Daily on Tuesday.
The death of Ms Ma has sparked a debate on patients' medical rights, on China's social media.
Under a regulation released by the State Council, China's Cabinet, medical institutions must get consent from patients and a signature from a family member before performing surgery, but doctors can make decisions without consent in emergencies.
Dr Gong Xiaoming, a gynaecologist at Shanghai First Maternity and Infant Hospital, said pregnant women should have the right to decide whether to have a natural birth or caesarean section.
"In reality, in many cases in China the decision to have a caesarean section is made by the patients' family members and the doctors," he said.
Caesarean section used to be popular in China. In February 2010, a World Health Organisation report showed that in China, caesarean births accounted for 46 per cent of all the births in 2007 and 2008, much higher than the line of 15 per cent the WHO suggests.
According to an obstetrician who asked for anonymity, medical authorities in China have taken measures to control caesarean birth in the past few years. This is because it is a surgical operation and the pregnant woman needs more days to recover after delivery. Babies born in this way also face higher risk of wet-lung disease as they did not pass through the birth canal of the mother.
Yet, a caesarean section is still the most effective measure against dystocia, or obstructed labour, and it has saved many lives of women and children. "For the health of mothers and children, we encourage natural births, but we cannot demonise caesarean section," he said. "It is a last resort but a necessary last measure."