A locally respected Chinese doctor in Shaanxi Province’s Fuping County has become the center of a child trafficking ring for stealing and selling seven newborns during her practice. Zhang Shuxia, an obstetrician who delivered babies at the Fuping County Maternal and Child Hospital, admitted in court on Monday to these illegal acts that took place from November 2011 to July 2013.
As she stood trial, Shuxia told the court she would tell her patients their newborns had “congenital problems” and persuaded them to “sign and give the babies up,” the court postings said, USA Today reports. Her defense lawyer said the parents had voluntarily given up their babies, and, in an effort to defend her character, said the doctor has received several awards for her work.
There are an estimated 270,000 newborns that die during the first 28 days of life every year from congenital anomalies, also referred to as birth defects, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). These babies suffer structural or functional anomalies, including metabolic disorders present at the time of birth. Although these anomalies are often considered to be triggered by causes linked to pregnancy or birth complications, they can also be the result of genetic malformations to viral infections in utero, says the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. However, approximately 50 percent of all birth defects cannot be attributed to a specific cause. Congenital anomalies may result in long-term disability and could significantly impact individuals, families, health care systems, and societies.
Shuxia was exposed for her fraudulence in July when a mother suspected her baby had been abducted by the maternity doctor and reported her to the police. A DNA test confirmed a baby, found in the neighboring province of Henan, belonged to the grieving mother, BBC News reports. The obstetrician told the newborn’s parents the baby was suffering from serious congenital disease that would require extensive treatment. Shuxia persuaded them to entrust the infant to her care instead, but it was unclear how long the initial arrangement was expected to last. The missing baby was sold to a Henan man for the equivalent of $3,600, and the man resold the baby to a villager in central China for $9,900.
The baby trafficking case in July is just one of seven cases in which Shuxia is involved. In her indictment, the Chinese doctor sold seven babies to middlemen who sold the babies to “couples” in central and eastern China. Six of the babies were rescued by the state officials, but one that was trafficked for $165 in April, died.
This case has added to the public’s frustration with medical professionals partaking in illegal activities such as child trafficking in China. Child trafficking has become a major concern in China despite the legal punishments involved for those persecuted such as the death penalty.
The National Population and Family Planning Commission of China (NPFPC), a state agency responsible for overseeing population control, reproductive health, and family planning all across China, enforces the country’s strict one-child policy, which prompts many families to buy trafficked children. Also, the traditional preference to have at least one male child also compels many to seek these trafficked kids on the streets. However, China relaxed its one-child policy in November by allowing couples to have two children if either parent is an only child, according to The Lancet.
Shuxia is expected to receive a “fair punishment” for her crimes, which is said to serve as a precedent to deter other doctors from committing such acts that can lead them to a lifetime of regret.