A family in central China has been accused of misusing funds intended for their cancer-stricken daughter to treat their son with a cleft lip instead.
The girl, who suffered from eye cancer, died on May 4 and her family has been criticised for not providing her with prompt treatment despite having received large donations.
The alleged incident has caused outrage among net users, who accused the family of favouring their son over their daughter, who had a life-threatening condition.
Ms Yang posing with her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Yaya in an undated photo. A Wechat article published on Friday titled ‘The death of little Yaya’ provided the details related to the death of a girl suffering from retinoblastoma, a form of eye cancer
A family in Henan, central China has been suspected of misappropriating funds raised for their cancer-stricken daughter by using the money on their son’s cleft lip repair surgery instead
The news surfaced when a Wechat article titled ‘The death of little Yaya’ was published on Friday.
The article apparently provided details related to the death of a girl suffering from retinoblastoma, a form of eye cancer.
According to iFeng that carried the original article, a desperate mother in Henan province appealed for help to save her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, nicknamed Yaya, after the family found out the girl had cancer last September.
Ms Yang, 31, is said to have raised a total of 150,000 yuan (£17,612) by setting up personal fundraising accounts on several social media platforms on behalf of her daughter, according to the article.
However, the mother is suspected of using the donations on her son’s cleft lip repair surgery instead for Yaya’s cancer treatment.
The original article has also gone viral and has been widely reported by Chinese media. However, the account that published the original article has since been deleted.
Screengrabs of Ms Yang’s fundraising accounts posted by charitable organisation Tree of Hope on Weibo show Yaya with her right eye protruding from its socket due to the tumor.
In one of the pictures, the sick girl was pictured with visible white spot in the pupil called ‘cat’s eye reflex’, often one of the first signs of retinoblastoma.
This picture, dated March 21, shows Yaya with her right eye protruding from its socket due to the tumor. The cancer-stricken girl died on May 4, reportedly due to lack of treatment
Ms Yang, 31, is said to have raised a total of 150,000 yuan (£17,612) by setting up personal fundraising accounts on several social media platforms on behalf of her daughter
The mother has also set up an account on Beijing-based Droplet Funds, a free social fundraising platform used for medical expenses, raising 35,689 yuan (£4,187)
WHAT IS RETINOBLASTOMA?
Retinoblastoma is a rare type of eye cancer that usually affects children under the age of five.
As it is usually caught early in the UK, 98 per cent of children with the disease are successfully treated.
About 50 children develop the condition every year in Britain.
It affects up to 300 youngsters annually in the US.
Retinoblastoma is specifically a cancer of the retina, which is the light-sensitive lining at the back of the eye.
It can affect one or both eyes.
A fault gene is responsible in about 40 per cent of cases. This can be inherited from the sufferer’s parents or may occur spontaneously.
The most common symptoms are the pupil looking like a cat’s eye and the child developing a squint.
The cat eye look is most commonly seen in photos.
Small tumours can usually be treated with laser or freezing treatment.
Larger tumours may require chemotherapy or surgery.
Source: NHS Choices
Retinoblastoma most commonly affects children under the age of 5. However, 95 per cent of the children affected are cured, according to the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus.
The mother has also set up an account on Beijing-based Droplet Funds, a free social fundraising platform used for medical expenses.
‘We can confirm that the Wang family has set up a fundraising page on Droplet,’ the organisation said in a news release on Friday.
The family raised funds between November 3 to 29 last year, then again on March 15 to 27 this year.
A total of 2,249 people contributed and the account raised 35,689 yuan (£4,187), according to the statement.
In an updated WeChat post on December 2, the mother took pictures of a hospital, praising its comfortable and hygienic environment.
‘This is in Beijing, where my son is being treated for his illness,’ she commented below the post.
‘Where did the money intended for Yaya’s treatment go?’ the article stated, citing confused net users as well as the non-profit organisations involved.
The article added that several charities have reportedly tried to reach the mother in the past and urged the family to take their sick daughter to the city for treatment, but they refused to listen to them.
The mother has since deleted all her social media accounts.
Net users have demanded an explanation from Ms Yang, asking the family to repay the funds.
The incident has also been reported to the police. However, they concluded that the incident is not a federal crime, according to according to Beijing Youth News citing a spokesperson from Taikang County Police Department.
The police have also liaised with the related organisation to encourage the family to pay back the remaining funds.
The family has refused to disclose the amount of donations received, according to the report.
Experts commenting on the matter said the case is a tricky one.
In normal fundraising operations, a registered non-profit organisation should be involved in overseeing the donations, according to Wang Zhenyao, director of the Beijing Normal University China philanthropy research institute, in an interview with China National Radio.
However, since these funds were privately raised, and there is no clear law in China that demands the funds be repaid if unused, he added.
At the same time, he said it is perhaps unrealistic to expect a rural family to strictly adhere to the related charity laws.