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Can Education Put an End to Underground IV Treatments?

A Chinese woman in Flushing Queens has brought a lawsuit against a local storefront medical clinic for administering an intravenous solution that might have caused a severe infection. 61-year-old Myung Hwa Jang visited the clinic seeking a remedy for her cold-like symptoms when she was given the solution, known to her only as “ringer.”Almost immediately after her treatment Ms. Jang was taken by ambulance to New York Hospital Queens suffering from symptoms of septic shock. As a result of her infection Ms. Jang was forced to have multiple amputations, leaving her without her lower legs or right hand, and her left thumb as her only remaining digit.Though Ms. Jang’s infection has not yet been directly linked to the IV treatment, the facts of her case make it appear likely. The incident has sparked mixed reactions from the Chinese and Korean communities in New York where IV solutions are a cultural norm, even for healthy patients.Bags of solution are sold illegally at some pharmacies, and IV drips are offered at clinics like the one Ms. Jang visited usually for just under $100. Many users lack health insurance, and so this remedy serves as a cheaper alternative to professionally prescribed medicine.IV drips are a common remedy in the Chinese American community, carrying over from China, where the average person receives over 4 injections per year, compared to the world average of about 2.9. According to the World Health Organization, over 500,000 cases of hepatitis B and over 6,000 cases of H.I.V. were contracted in China in 2010 because of improperly administered injections. One famous 2012 photo from Xiaogan in the Hubei province China shows a classroom of students receiving IV solutions before college entrance examinations, so as to stay healthy without losing time studying.In spite of her incident, Ms. Jang’s husband and daughter back in China continue to receive regular injections.While personal injury lawyers can continue to hold doctors and clinics legally responsible for medical malpractice when they over-prescribe solutions like “ringer,” this will only lead regular users to seek shadier and less professional clinics for their injections. The solution in this case lies in education. The more people that know about the potential dangers of less-than-professional IV administration, the less tragedies like Ms. Jang’s we will see appearing in the headlines.Sources: Daily Mail, “Revision Chinese-style: Pupils hooked up to drips to give their brainpower a boost,” May 7, 2012.New York Times, “Infection Resulting in Amputation Raises Questions About Asian Immigrants’ IV Use,” December 26, 2013.