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Print Edition> Forum
UPDATED: May 16, 2011 NO. 20 MAY 19, 2011
Is Deception Acceptable to Save a Life?



In March 2011, Xie Sanxiu, a rural woman from Hubei Province, fell to her knees and walked on them in Guangzhou, capital city of Guangdong Province, hugging her ill daughter and begging for money. She did this because a netizen had told her if she did so, he would donate 20,000 yuan ($3,030) to cure her daughter's eye cancer. But Xie later said on Tianya.cn, a popular online forum in China, the netizen broke his promise and she didn't get the money.

Xie's story was widely spread and aroused strong anger from the public at the netizen. Feeling sorrow for the poor mother and her daughter, people around the country donated more than 200,000 yuan ($30,303) to Xie, enough for her daughter to receive an eye operation.

The story didn't end there. It was later discovered that what Xie said had been made up and was total sensationalization. The netizen Xie referred to was an employee of the Tianya forum, where Xie posted her story. The whole story had been planned and was actually written and posted on Tianya by this employee to attract people's attention.

Although the employee claimed he planned the whole thing and made up the news to attract people's attention to save the little girl's life, the incident has caused wide discussion in society. Their opinions can be divided into two groups.

Supporters say they think, although the story was made up, the state of the poor family was real and they needed help urgently. Having the good purpose of saving life, morality wasn't so important and the sensationalization enabled enough donations to save the girl's life as quickly as possible.

Opponents say they think it's quite immoral to lie to the public. If people are deceived repeatedly, they will gradually lose sympathy, which is bad for the long-term development of China's charitable undertakings. Also, a good purpose and a good result do not mean saving life can be used as an excuse and shield for the degradation of morality. If this kind of things are allowed to happen, it will become more and more difficult in the future for people to tell immoral behavior around them.


Bi Xiaozhe (www.ptxw.com): The sensationalization is not so good at first glance, but we can't ignore the good result it brought about. If there was a better way to attract attention, they would have done that first. In Xie's case, there were two key elements: a sick daughter and walking on her knees. The first wouldn't have attracted so much attention if it had not been connected with the second. Although the process had flaws, it had a righteous and just result. So we shouldn't criticize it.

Nothing is more important and more meaningful than saving a life. With a flawed social insurance system, it's understandable people are willing to surrender dignity to save life. Even if certain aspects of the incident are not in accordance with what is generally considered moral, we shouldn't blame it since it did end up in saving the little girl's life.

Jia Zhiyong (blog.sina.com.cn): There are many people in need in society and we are becoming more and more suspicious of these people as we think some of them may be liars. If the woman hadn't walked on her knees for thousands of meters in Guangzhou, we would have hardly believed her daughter had eye cancer and needed immediate help, and people wouldn't have helped the poor family with so many donations in such a short time.

The sensationalization was caused by prevailing distrust in society. Now, people make judgments about whether an incident is true on people's behavior rather than their words. So if the mother didn't walk on her knees to demonstrate her desperation to the public, people would never have really believed her.

If people do bad deeds with good intentions, that's understandable. For the same reason, if one does a good deed by disgraceful means, we should treat them with tolerance.

Yang Panhua (www.cqnews.net): Sensationalizing news is becoming used to a greater extent as a means of Internet publicity even by established businesses. If a deceitful method is used to save a life, we should tolerate it.

First, we should know morality is personal and we shouldn't impose ours on others. Second, we should know morality has exceptions and may not apply to all conditions and we may face conflict between moralities in different conditions. The behavior of Tianya's employee did hurt people's feelings but it saved the little girl's life. In this case, saving life was more important than keeping morality.

In an online investigation conducted by Sina.com, 67.9 percent of people said they understood this as it had been designed to save life, while only 23.7 percent condemned it.

I'm not saying one should attain one's end by hook or by crook. I think the world is governed by many moralities and when there is conflict between them, we have to obey the more important one in the specific circumstances, such as the necessity to save a life.

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