Shanghai senior wheeled away in body bag was actually alive, sparking backlash, firings

Workers in Shanghai unzip a yellow body bag on a stretcher to discover that the elderly patient inside is still alive.
Workers in Shanghai unzip a yellow body bag on a stretcher to discover that the elderly patient inside is still alive. fangshimin / Twitter

Four Shanghai officials have been fired after an elderly man from a Shanghai care home was mistakenly pronounced dead and in transit to a morgue when workers discovered that he was actually still alive.

The incident led to wide-spread backlash in China after videos of the workers discovering the mistake went viral.

Footage of the incident shows a yellow body bag on a stretcher being wheeled into a van outside of the Shanghai Xinchangzheng Welfare Hospital on Sunday afternoon. Two workers in hazmat suits, who appear to be mortuary workers, unzip the body bag in front of a staff member from the care home. They seemingly step back in shock once the bag is open and insist that the elderly man inside is still alive.

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The hospital staff member checks the body and reseals the bag, despite bystanders filming the incident warning that the patient could suffocate.

(NOTE: The following video contains disturbing content. Please watch at your own discretion.)

The hospital worker deliberates with two other workers in hazmat suits inside the facility before they wheel the patient back into the centre.

The highly publicized blunder sparked outrage in China, especially among Shanghai residents, who have been under a strict lockdown since the start of April. The sudden lockdown was gruelling, as many of the city’s 26 million residents struggled with finding reliable sources of food during the multi-week lockdown.

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Last week, authorities relaxed restrictions in some areas, allowing nearly half of Shanghai residents to leave their homes. However, new cases emerging in the city have some residents fearing that more lockdowns will be imposed.

Angry Chinese citizens took to Weibo to vent their frustrations with the potentially fatal oversight. Many pointed out that the elderly man who was mistaken as dead could have been buried or cremated alive.

“The problems in Shanghai are fully exposed this time,” reads one comment.

“The government doesn’t care … what is going on in Shanghai?” another user wrote.

The Putuo district government of Shanghai confirmed the accident on Monday morning. After a flash investigation, four officials were fired and two more reprimanded.

Among the fired officials are Huang Yaojong, deputy director; Liu Yinhua, section chief for elderly services; and Wu Youcheng, head of the Changzheng township social affairs development office.

The director of the care facility where the incident took place, Ge Fang, was also sacked.

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The doctor in charge of the care home has been barred from practising medicine and will be subject to a police investigation. The director of Putuo’s Civil Affairs Bureau, Zhang Jiandong, was also reprimanded.

Shanghai Xinchangzheng Welfare Hospital has apologized for the mix-up and the mortuary workers who noticed the person was still alive were awarded 5,000 yuan ($1,000) each by their employers.

The patient who was mistaken for dead is receiving treatment in hospital.

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