Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2016

Center/Program

Center for Chinese Legal Studies

Abstract

Can law help to address the lack of trust in doctor-patient relationships in China? This essay examines the role that law, on the books and in practice, has played in the rise and resolution of patient1 - doctor disputes and conflict in China. Law has generally played a secondary role in medical disputes: most patient claims never make it to court, and there is little evidence that negotiated outcomes are influenced by legal standards. Yet a legal framework weighted in favor of hospitals and doctors almost certainly exacerbated doctor-patient conflict in the 2000s. Patients facing legal procedures and rules that appeared to offer little hope of redress took their complaints to the streets. The threat of protest and violence also influenced how courts handled the cases that ended up in court, with courts creating new legal standards or ignoring formal law in order to appease plaintiffs. The result was lack of trust in formal law and the legal process from both plaintiffs and defendants.

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