Chinese chemist who broke woman’s ribs during CPR cleared of liability

Zhuang Pinghui

The owner of a pharmacy in northeast China who was sued by an elderly woman on whom he performed CPR after she collapsed in his shop has been cleared of any liability for breaking her ribs in the process, local media reported on Friday.

The woman, who was not named, was seeking compensation after being left with 12 broken ribs as a result of the procedure, according to online news outlet Thepaper.cn.

Sun Xiangbo, who is a licensed village doctor, was working in his shop in Shenyang’s Kangping county, Liaoning province in September 2017 when a 72-year-old woman entered complaining of a shortage of breath and chest pain, the report said.

Sun gave her a nitroglycerine tablet – a drug used to treat angina in people who have coronary artery disease – but as he was checking her blood pressure, the woman collapsed.

When he realised she was not breathing and there were no signs of a heartbeat, Sun called the emergency services and started to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

The chemist performed CPR when he realised the woman did not have a heart beat. Photo: Shutterstock

An ambulance arrived about 10 minutes later, by which time the woman had regained consciousness.

She was taken to hospital where she was found to have 12 fractured ribs. Doctors also diagnosed that she was suffering from hypokalemia, a disease associated with low potassium that can cause muscle weakness and heart irregularities.

After 12 days in hospital the woman was discharged. About a month later, she began legal proceedings in which she sought compensation of 10,000 yuan (US$1,400) from Sun, whom she blamed for her broken ribs. She also said the nitroglycerine tablet he gave her had caused her heart attack.

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The case was heard by the Kangping County People’s Court but officials there said they were unable to make a ruling as they did not have the necessary medical expertise, the report said.

So in November 2018, the court assembled a panel of medical experts to hear the arguments of both sides.

The panel reached the conclusion that the nitroglycerine tablet had not been to blame for the woman’s cardiac arrest, and that Sun had not violated any medical procedures in performing CPR and should therefore be cleared of any liability.

After a wait of more than a year, he received official notice of the ruling on Tuesday.

Despite the court clearing his name, Sun said he was forced to close his store in June because of dwindling business after some locals shunned him because of what had happened. He later reopened in a new town, the report said.

“I saved her,” the chemist said. “My goodness! What if I didn’t? I didn’t think of anything else. It was like a dream. I felt I did something great.”

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