ChinaCoronavirus Infections

Beijing doctor says hospital discourages writing Covid-19 on death certificates

An unnamed Beijing doctor says he and others are being discouraged from writing Covid-19 on death certificates. According to Reuters, the doctor says he saw a printed notice in the emergency department that said “try not to” write Covid-induced respiratory failure on patients’ death certificates.

Instead, he says he was told to name any underlying diseases that the patients had as the cause of death on death certificates. Reuters says it saw a copy of the notice that is in question. Furthermore, the notice said that if doctors believed that Covid pneumonia solely caused the patients’ deaths, they must report to their superiors who would then arrange for two levels of “expert consultations” before a Covid death is confirmed.

Six doctors at public hospitals across the country told Reuters they had also received similar instructions that discouraged them from reporting deaths attributed to Covid or that their hospitals had similar policies.

One doctor at a large public hospital in Shanghai confirmed the cessation of reporting Covid-related deaths.

“We have stopped classifying Covid deaths since the reopening in December. It is pointless to do that because almost everyone is positive.”

Others told Reuters that their family members who passed away with Covid did not have it listed on their death certificates. And, some patients reported that they weren’t even tested despite having respiratory symptoms.

Such policies and orders by hospitals have led to global health experts, including the World Health Organisation to criticise China’s handling of the coronavirus. As of December, the government did a u-turn on its “Zero-Covid” regime, which has led to the virus running rampant nationwide.

On Saturday, officials announced that 60,000 people have died from Covid since the government flipped its stance on handling the pandemic. That number is around ten times the amount that was previously reported before the policy was cancelled.

Despite the unnamed doctors saying they were discouraged from reporting Covid deaths, three other doctors say they were unaware of any such policies at their places of work. According to Reuters, China was reporting five or fewer Covid-related deaths per day, before last Saturday.

But public health scholar, Michael Baker, at the University of Otago in New Zealand, says the new Covid-related death numbers still look low compared to the country’s high level of Covid infections.

“Most countries are finding that most deaths from Covid are caused directly by the infection rather than by a combination of Covid and other diseases. By contrast, reported deaths in China are mainly (90%) a combination of Covid and other infections, which also suggests that deaths directly from Covid infection are under-reported in China.”

Ann Carter

Ann Carter is an award-winning journalist from the United States with over 12 years experience in print and broadcast news. Her work has been featured in America, China and Thailand as she has worked internationally at major news stations as a writer and producer. Carter graduated from the Walter Williams Missouri School of Journalism in the USA.