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Woman’s lungs collapsed after treatment by unlicensed NYC acupuncturist, prosecutors say

A New York City man accused of performing acupuncture treatments without a license allegedly punctured a woman’s lungs during her treatment, sending her to a hospital for nearly a week, prosecutors said Monday.

The woman, 63, was experiencing stomach and back pain, so she visited C&W Medical in the Queens borough of New York City on May 10, 2022, District Attorney Melinda Katz said. She received more than a dozen treatments from acupuncturist Yong De Lin between May 18 and Oct. 28 of last year.

She began to feel unwell during her last session with Lin and laid down, Katz said. Lin, 66, allegedly performed additional acupuncture and a cupping treatment before sending the woman home.

The patient experienced shortness of breath and collapsed on a sidewalk, officials said. A passerby called 911 and the woman was rushed to a hospital for emergency surgery. The hospital determined both of the woman’s lungs had collapsed because of the acupuncture treatments. The woman remained hospitalized for six days.

“The difference between receiving health care from a competent, licensed professional or someone who is unlicensed can mean the difference between life and death,” Katz said. “As alleged, the defendant was not licensed, nor had even bothered to apply for licensure, and he very nearly killed his patient. We urge any other victims to come forward.”

Lin was arraigned Monday on charges of assault in the first and second degrees, reckless endangerment in the first degree and unauthorized practice of a profession. Prosecutors said he’s never applied for the state license required to perform acupuncture treatments. Lin faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

Though the agency did not provide data, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health says that relatively few complications from using acupuncture have been reported.

“However, complications have resulted from use of nonsterile needles and improper delivery of treatments,” the center said. “When not delivered properly, acupuncture can cause serious adverse effects, including infections, punctured organs, and injury to the central nervous system.”

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