Medical student dies after suspected poisoning

Updated: 2013-04-17 07:58

By Wang Hongyi in Shanghai (China Daily)

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A postgraduate medical student in Shanghai who police believe was poisoned by a roommate has died.

Huang Yang was pronounced dead at 3:23 pm on Tuesday due to multiple organ failure, Fudan University said on its micro blog.

The 28-year-old fell ill on April 1 after drinking from a water cooler in his room at the college dormitory. Doctors later said he showed symptoms of liver failure.

Suspecting foul play, police tested the water and found a toxic compound. Authorities did not elaborate, but media reports say the substance was N-Nitrosodimethylamine, which can cause liver damage.

Huang's roommate, identified only as Lin, has been detained on suspicion of contaminating the water supply. Investigations are continuing, police said.

However, Fang Ming, a spokesman for the university, denied speculation online and among students on Tuesday that the victim had been poisoned due to jealousy over his good performance in a recent PhD admission test.

On a bulletin board in a building opposite the victim's dormitory, someone had posted a note under a notice about the incident quoting a well-known poem: "We grow from the same root. Why are you so impatient in wanting to boil me?"

The ancient verse is often used to mock people who try to attack a once-close friend.

Fang insisted there was no academic competition between Huang and Lin. They did not have the same major and worked as interns at different hospitals, he said.

The spokesman said the police are continuing their investigation.

Huang, who came from a poor family in Sichuan, enrolled at Fudan University in 2010 and studied otolaryngology - medicine or surgery involving the ear, nose and throat.

His parents traveled to be at his bedside after hearing he was seriously ill.

"He was good-natured and always helpful," his father said on Tuesday. "He was very popular with his friends. We just can't accept what has happened."

His father earlier told Shanghai TV, "My son was finishing his study through a work-study program. During his eight years at Fudan University, he got the highest scholarship each year."

Huang's high school classmate, Zhou Xu, who works in Shanghai, said:"When we heard he was sick, we just couldn't believe he'd been poisoned."

She said his friend had planned to return home after graduating to be closer to his family.

At the university's School of Medicine, many students had not heard of the incident until Tuesday morning.

"I was shocked," said one PhD candidate of the poisoning allegations. "I can't imagine what might make anyone do such a terrible thing."

Another student living in the same dormitory building as Huang and Lin said, "Lin gets along well with all of us."

Students, with help from Zhou, have begun a collection to raise money for Huang's family.

The tragedy has evoked memories of an incident at Beijing's Tsinghua University in 1994 in which Zhu Ling, a student majoring in chemistry, was left partially disabled after being poisoned with thallium, a substance historically used in rat poison and insecticide.

(China Daily 04/17/2013 page5)