China / Society

Harbin hospital attacker gets life sentence

(Xinhua) Updated: 2012-10-19 21:32

HARBIN - A teenager who stabbed a doctor to death and injured three others at a local hospital in Harbin, capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, has received life imprisonment.

On Friday, Li Mengnan, 18, was found guilty of intentional homicide at the Intermediate People's Court of Harbin. He was also ordered to pay more than 680,000 yuan (107,765 U.S. dollars) to the victims' families, in compensation.

Under Chinese law, because Li was under 18 years old when he committed the crime, a death sentence was not applicable. A life sentence was the highest penalty he could receive, his lawyers said.

On March 23, 2012, Li, an out-patient with the First Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University, attacked four medical workers with a knife after "misunderstandings" about his treatment program prescribed by doctors, the ruling said.

Li's defense lawyers argued that the hospital had misdiagnosed his condition. The court did not accept this.

The defendant was suffering from ankylosing spondylitis, a chronic disease that causes inflammation around the spinal vertebrae, as well as tuberculosis.

Li had received treatment from the hospital on several occasions over the past five years but was still not cured.

Hospital doctors would not administer the drug infliximab for treating ankylosing spondylitis as it could harm or even kill a tuberculosis carrier.

Li believed the doctors were refusing him treatment because he and his family were poor. At around 4 p.m. he bought a fruit knife from a nearby store and returned to the hospital.

He stabbed Wang Hao, a 28-year-old hospital intern, to death. Three others suffered injuries.

After the attack, Li left the scene but returned to the hospital to receive treatment as he had tried to kill himself.

Police arrested him at the hospital at around 5 p.m..

The court did not accept that Li surrendered himself after the attack when he returned to the hospital for treatment.

It was not mentioned if Li planned to appeal.

Wei Liangyue, Li's lawyer, said they were not satisfied with the ruling.

"He chose to be treated at the same hospital, the crime scene, and that should be deemed as surrender," according to Wei.

Li's uncle, Li Chunming, said at the court that he hoped his nephew would file an appeal.

The victim's father, however, said the ruling was fair.


Born in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Li Mengnan never enjoyed love from his immediate family. His parents divorced when he was 10 months old, and he was brought up by his grandfather.

He does not know what his mother looks like, and he only met his father twice as the older Li was serving a jail term, said the uncle, adding the defendant's grandfather was diagnosed with cancer for a long time and could not show up at the court.

"Mengnan's disease already put the whole family into poverty, and the case made it worse," said Li Chunming, adding it was impossible for them to afford the compensation as ruled.

He said he did have a chance to meet his nephew, and only left cotton pants to him at the detention house as the snowy winter was approaching.

On the other hand, the victim, Wang Hao, was a straight-A student as well as the apple of his parents' eyes.

With a master's degree in medicine, he had just been accepted to study for a doctorate at a Hong Kong university before he was killed.

The attack ended his dream of being a doctor and put his family into sorrow.

"Why not sentence him to death," Wang's mother cried at the court. His father, Wang Dongqing, expressed his sadness at his son's murder and willingness to seek justice through a Twitter-like Weibo account, which has drawn nearly 5,000 fans.

People believe the case was a tragedy for both families, and also a low point in the tense relations between doctors and patients.

In China, doctors often work long hours without reasonable pay, and their relations with those they are treating can be strained as many patients are dissatisfied with difficult access to proper treatment, high medical fees, and in some cases, doctors' perceived unfriendly attitudes.

A similar case occurred in September last year, when a patient stabbed and seriously injured a surgeon at Beijing Tongren Hospital following a medical dispute, in which the patient alleged that the surgeon had committed malpractice during an operation.

Li Qingchen, a surgeon with the People's Hospital of Harbin, said hospital attack cases have hurt doctors both physically and mentally, which may cause deterioration in hospital environments.

Li labeled Friday's ruling fair, said much more effort must be put into improving relations between doctors and patients.

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