Saturday 7 January 2012

The Perils of Traditional Chinese Medicine

A recent news story reported that mainland Chinese parents are putting faith and wishful thinking in to using crocus flowers to treat their 19-month-old son's severely damaged liver caused due to a congenital blocked bile duct. The parents were earlier told by medical doctors in Hong Kong that their infant son needed a liver transplant.

Although lack of money and lack of access to modern resources may be major factors that are stopping the parents from accepting modern medicine, their belief in traditional Chinese medicine is still a huge concern, and illustrates how many people are tricked into believing traditional Chinese medicine is effective when compared with modern medicine.

"If it really worked, there wouldn't be so many people needing transplants,"
said Professor Lo Chung-mau, director of Queen Mary Hospital's Liver Transplant Centre

Do the parents actually know what is in the best interests of their child?

It is heart warming to hear that Hong Kong citizens have so far raised over HK$100,000 for the child's plight. A liver transplant in Hong Kong typically costs HK$1 million.


Parents backtrack on baby's liver operation (SCMP; paywall)
Infant whose plight won sympathy in HK will be treated with traditional methods, his father says
Lo Wei
Jan 04, 2012

The mainland couple whose infant son doctors say needs a life-saving liver transplant have decided to forgo the surgery - for which the Hong Kong public made donations - in favour of traditional Chinese treatment.

The parents of 19-month-old Li Liuxuan , whose plight made front-page news in the city two months ago, said a transplant would be a "last resort" for now.

"Little Liuxuan's health is progressing well with the Chinese medicine he has been taking," the father, Li Xianfeng , said last week.

"He has a better appetite now. His skin is not so yellow and he has grown taller and heavier.

"[Our] Chinese doctor said an operation may not be necessary, and we hope to avoid causing him serious harm [through a transplant operation]," the 32-year-old said.

The family has been consulting a doctor specialising in traditional Chinese medicine in Guangzhou since returning to the mainland.

The baby is being treated with crocus flowers, said to treat yellowing skin caused by liver disease.

Hongkongers donated tens of thousands of dollars to help the couple pay for a HK$1 million operation for Liuxuan, who was born with a blocked bile duct and whose liver was severely damaged.

The baby's recent progress may not be a sign of recovery, warns Professor Lo Chung-mau, director of Queen Mary Hospital's Liver Transplant Centre, who was consulted by the Li family in October.

Liuxuan's liver has been irreversibly damaged, Lo says, and a liver transplant - which has a 95 per cent success rate - is the only way to save the baby's life. "He may be in stable condition now, but complications such as intestinal bleeding or bile duct inflammation may occur any time and cause death," he said.

Lo also doubts the crocus flower's effectiveness. "If it really worked, there wouldn't be so many people needing transplants," he said.

Post readers sent donations to help Liuxuan, and the University of Hong Kong set up a Liver Transplant Charitable Fund. So far HK$119,870 has been received from 30 donors.

If the couple confirm they will not proceed with the transplant, donors who sent aid specifically for the baby will get a refund.

The liver centre will contact the family soon to get their final decision, Lo said.

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