Doctors share their tales of life and death

Updated: 2013-08-05 23:30

By Sun Ye (

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Wang Zhong, a doctor in the emergency room at Peking Union Medical College Hospital, sees 20 patients on an ordinary night shift.

Tang Lili, a psychologist with Beijing Cancer Hospital, says 30 percent of her patients die.

Neither could tell the number of patients they've treated in their career, but both have worked in the health fraternity for more than 20 years.

And they still feel emotional facing their patients' deaths.

Wang and Tang are two of the doctors who share their stories in a new book that shows although they face death in their everyday work, they are not cold, callous and unfeeling like the scalpels they hold.

Death Is so Emotional, published by China Citic Press, contains accounts of first-hand stories.

The 100 short pieces are not about rare and challenging maladies, nor about the extremes they've gone through to save lives. Written in plain and simple style, the narratives tell of feelings and love.

Wang tells the story about how a sweet and friendly girl he had been treating for more than 10 years suddenly died of kidney failure.

It was 3 am. "I suddenly woke up drenched in sweat from a dream of her asking me to check her," Wang recalls. "I don't believe in spirits, but it happened."

Chen Qinfen from Shanghai's Huashan Hospital remembers a cancer patient who braved her inevitable death by planning her own funeral the way she would plan a wedding, with a glamorous photo shoot where she had her photo taken wearing fancy clothes. "I want to leave only laughter behind," the young woman wrote.

Zhang Xiaodong with Beijing Cancer Hospital recalls feeling touched when a dying patient said to her, "Doctor, you should go home. Your child is waiting".

"We're not curing a disease, we're curing people of their sickness," says Han Qide, president of the Peking University Health Science Center. "While people think we are only concerned with a body part, what we care about is really the person and his life story."

If there is a message to take home from the stories, Tang, the psychologist, says, "One should face death in a calm and unperturbed way."

"We should accept that one's life will eventually end in death and we should welcome the end the way it is."

Other doctors also agree that the stories aren't merely doctors' notes but guides to a realistic understanding of life and death, of which love is the core.

"When you come to terms with your life and become prepared for the eventuality, you become more at ease," Han says. "If I were to write my will now, I will say only four words, 'I love my family'."

"Remember, life is like embarking on a train ride, you have to make stops and everyone will reach the terminal point," Han adds.