Father's court conviction sparks controversy

By Wang Ying (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-08-31 09:17

A steel worker in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, was sentenced to six months' imprisonment early this month for abandoning his premature son who later died.

The case has sparked much controversy because many feel he should not have been charged.

Tu Cailiang, 45, signed a document "giving up the right to treatment for his son" because he could not afford the medical fees.

The boy was born two months' premature and weighed less than 1 kg at birth. The mother in her late 30s, suffers from a chronic disease and was told by doctors her pregnancy would not go to term.

Tu said doctors told him the baby needed intensive care and this would cost between 1,000 yuan and 2,000 yuan ($130-$260) a day. If the baby did not receive medical treatment, it would die. And even if it did, there was still a 20 percent chance the child would develop dangerous side effects.

Tu, earning a monthly salary of 1,000 yuan, married his wife last year and got heavily into debt after buying a house.

Unable to pay the medical fees, and without informing his wife, Tu took the baby home. It died the following day.

The wife is now filing for divorce. "The baby was alive when he was taken away from me in the labor room. I would have saved my child at any cost," she said.

Sina.com asked people what they thought of the case. The website received 5,000 responses.

More than 83 percent sympathized with Tu, saying it was not entirely his fault.

More than 10 percent said the verdict was correct because it was Tu's fault the baby died. The rest of the respondents had no comment.

"What a tragedy. Sending the father to prison serves no useful purpose. Without an effective social umbrella this kind of tragedy will happen again and again in the future."

"Should people be put into prison because they cannot afford the medical fees to save a life?"

Anonymous, a netizen from Jiangxi

"I think the father has totally evaded his responsibilities. Without discussing the matter with his wife and other family members, he took it upon himself to deprive a child of his life. If he had thought twice, he might have found a way out. I think many people would have lent a helping hand. He should have sought help through the media, or borrowed money from relatives. There were many way he could have raised money."

Lin Yu, a Beijing resident

"The Criminal Law does not limit the crime of abandonment to families. If the father needs to be blamed for abandoning his child, the public hospital which is legally bound to save people in danger, also failed to fulfill its duty."

Chen Junhua, a lawyer

"According to a saying: 'Even a hungry tiger does not eat its own cubs.' I think the father would not have taken his son out of hospital. He was in despair. Low income, high debts and medical fees the burden was just too heavy to bear. The baby was not only abandoned by his father but by society as a whole. If everybody was entitled to medicare and if there was a comprehensive social aid system, the baby's life could probably have been saved."

Ma Liang, a sociologist at Zhejiang Industrial and Commercial University

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