Liver cancer patient switched at birth in critical condition as he waits on appeal against compensation ruling

Mandy Zuo
·4-min read

Advanced liver cancer patient Yao Ce, who made headlines last year when he discovered he had been switched at birth 28 years ago following his non-biological mother’s attempt to donate part of her liver to save his life, is in a dangerously critical condition undergoing emergency treatment in hospital.

Yao, from eastern China’s Jiangxi province, was admitted to the Beihai People’s Hospital in Guangxi, an autonomous region in southern China, on Sunday when he began vomiting a large quantity of blood.

The hospital – where he is undergoing treatment for liver cancer – issued a statement saying Yao’s disease had caused an upper gastrointestinal haemorrhage that could further complicate his condition.

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“My heart has been aching for all the hardship Yao has encountered since his [cancer] diagnosis,” wrote Yao’s lawyer, Zhou Zhaocheng, on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service. “He’s been through so much. I’m really worried about him.”

Yao with his son in Shanghai in June 2020. Photo: Weibo
Yao with his son in Shanghai in June 2020. Photo: Weibo

Yao has battled both health and legal issues in recent years as he sought compensation after discovering in April last year that he had been switched at birth almost three decades ago.

In December, a court in central China’s Henan province ordered the Henan University Huaihe Hospital to pay more than 760,000 yuan (US$118,000) in compensation to Yao and his biological parents after concluding that hospital staff had “accidentally” given them the wrong baby. Of that, 400,000 yuan was awarded for the family’s mental anguish, with the remaining for medical expenses and incidental costs.

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The award fell far short of the more than 2.7 million yuan requested by Yao and his family, of which 1.8 million yuan was claimed for mental damage compensation.

Yao was two years old when doctors discovered he was a carrier of hepatitis B. In February last year, he was diagnosed with liver cancer.

The shocking find that he’d been swapped at birth by hospital staff was revealed when Yao’s non-biological mother, surnamed Xu, tried to donate part of her liver to save her dying son’s life last year. Doctors found their blood types didn’t match and a further DNA test revealed he was not their biological child.

Xu Dongmei, Yao’s non-biological mother, holds a pair of Shanghai-branded Year of the Monkey commemorative watches – birthday gifts she prepared for Yao and Guo Wei, her biological son. Photo: Jiemian.com
Xu Dongmei, Yao’s non-biological mother, holds a pair of Shanghai-branded Year of the Monkey commemorative watches – birthday gifts she prepared for Yao and Guo Wei, her biological son. Photo: Jiemian.com

Desperate to find his birth parents for a liver transplant, Xu and her husband tracked down medical records at Huaihe Hospital where he was born. Documents revealed that Xu’s biological baby boy was “accidentally” handed to another couple who gave birth at almost the same time on June 15, 1992.

As a baby born with hepatitis B, Yao was supposed to be given a high-dosage vaccine soon after birth, because his biological mother, surnamed Du, was a hepatitis B carrier. The hospital mistakenly gave it to Xu’s healthy son, Guo Wei, instead.

Yao sued the hospital, believing it was responsible for his liver disease because he had not been given the vaccine in 1992.

“It indeed was an accident. But to me, it was a choice of life and death. I missed that chance,” Yao said last month on China Central Television.

Yao (third left) and Guo (second right) celebrate their birthday in Shanghai in June 2020 with their families, including Yao’s birth mother Du Liqing (fifth left) and Guo’s birth mother Xu (sixth left). Photo: Jiemian.com
Yao (third left) and Guo (second right) celebrate their birthday in Shanghai in June 2020 with their families, including Yao’s birth mother Du Liqing (fifth left) and Guo’s birth mother Xu (sixth left). Photo: Jiemian.com

Internet users rallied in support of Yao not receiving the full compensation claimed, saying it was unfair and far from satisfactory.

“The serious mistake made by the hospital ruined two families and it only compensated such an amount, don’t they feel guilty?” one commented.

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An appeal was lodged by Zhou on behalf of Yao and his family on December 20 against the compensation award.

“I will talk with the court and speed up the appeal process in order to ensure Yao won’t leave the world with regret,” Zhou told the Global Times yesterday.

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