Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Angels of Death: The Male Nurses

The Dabbler

Hu Wanlin is a Sichuan native of China. He received only a primary school education, and then led a troubled life. While serving a sentence in jail for intentional homicide, swindling, and abducting and trafficking in women, Hu decided to try something different. In 1993, while still in jail, he opened a medical practice. Four years later Hu was released from prison, and although he had no legal certification, he continued to practice medicine in the Shaanxi and Henan provinces.

Hu called himself a miracle-worker who could diagnose patients with only a cursory examination that might last only five seconds. He worked in the traditional practice of qigong, which requires the healer to emit qi from his body. The qi would have curative powers, without physical contact being necessary. There were thousands of such practitioners in China, with eager followers. Hu himself became a public figure, having his medical practice and "medical miracles" described by a well-known Chinese novelist, Ke Yunlu. Yet scientists denounced him.

And there were problems. Hu sold home-made herbal medicines, which were mixed with the mineral salt mirabilite. These medicines contained lethal amounts of sodium sulfate. He didn't save his patients; in fact, some died. Three deaths were clearly attributed to his illegal and unsafe practices.

Hu was arrested in January 1999 at the age of 50, suspected in causing the deaths of nearly 150 patients. He was charged with illegally practicing medicine and was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in prison. As part of his punishment, he no longer has the right to vote for five years and he had to pay a fine 150,000 Yuan. 

According to reports in the Xinhua News Agency, this case helped bring attention to the problems China has had with unauthorized medical practice, and China has now set up a medical licensing system under which only licensed doctors are allowed to treat patients. In 1999, 300,000 Chinese passed a national medical examination and became China's first group of licensed doctors.

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