Chinese Doctor, Silenced After Warning of Outbreak, Dies From Coronavirus – Smart Media Magazine

Chinese Doctor, Silenced After Warning of Outbreak, Dies From Coronavirus


WUHAN, China — He was the doctor who tried to sound a warning that a troubling cluster of viral infections in a Chinese province could grow out of control — and was then summoned for a middle-of-the-night reprimand over his candor.

On Friday, the doctor, Li Wenliang, died after contracting the very illness he had told medical school classmates about in an online chat room, the coronavirus. He joined the more than 600 other Chinese who have died in an outbreak that has now spread across the globe.

Dr. Li “had the misfortune to be infected during the fight against the novel coronavirus pneumonia epidemic, and all-out efforts to save him failed,” the Wuhan City Central Hospital said on Weibo, the Chinese social media service. “We express our deep regret and condolences.”

Even before his death, Dr. Li had become a hero to many Chinese after word of his treatment at the hands of the authorities emerged. In early January, he was called in by both medical officials and the police, and forced to sign a statement denouncing his warning as an unfounded and illegal rumor.

Word of his death unleashed an even greater upsurge of emotion.

“We will not forget the doctor who spoke up about an illness that was called rumor,” one commenter posted in reply to the hospital’s announcement. “What else can we do? The only thing is not to forget.”

Dr. Li, who was 34 and expecting a second child with his wife, had been a relatively obscure ophthalmologist in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province and the epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic.

  • Updated Feb. 5, 2020

    • Where has the virus spread?
      You can track its movement with this map.
    • How is the United States being affected?
      There have been at least a dozen cases. American citizens and permanent residents who fly to the United States from China are now subject to a two-week quarantine.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      Several countries, including the United States, have discouraged travel to China, and several airlines have canceled flights. Many travelers have been left in limbo while looking to change or cancel bookings.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands is the most important thing you can do.

But in recent weeks, he became a potent icon for Chinese people angry that a viral outbreak had swelled unchecked into a full-blown crisis, and that the doctor who had spoken out was initially punished.

His death poses a singularly delicate issue for the Chinese government. Even as officials have battled the epidemic, they have also tried to stifle widespread criticism that they mismanaged their response to the initial outbreak in Wuhan, a city of 11 million.

When Dr. Li posted his chat room warning on Dec. 30, the new coronavirus had not yet been identified. He said it resembled Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, an earlier coronavirus that ravaged China nearly two decades ago.

Not long after his reprimand, Dr. Li was vindicated as thousands of Wuhan residents fell ill with fever and pneumonia symptoms. He joined their number after contracting the virus from a patient he was treating for glaucoma.

“If the officials had disclosed information about the epidemic earlier,” Dr. Li told The Times. “I think it would have been a lot better. There should be more openness and transparency.”



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