Ke convinced his wife that they should draw lots to decide which one would miss out on medical care – but later admitted rigging the draw to ensure that she would continue to receive treatment.
Footage of the sham draw, in which Wang pulled out a white slip, was shown on local broadcaster Nanchang Radio and Television Station.
“You got the blank one, so you should raise our daughter until she becomes an adult.” Ke said, wiping away his wife’s tears.
But after Wang left the table, Ke admitted that both lots had been white paper to “give away the opportunity” to his wife.
Ke’s wife and daughter only learned the truth after the video was published, and later criticised him for making such a decision, Ke said.
“We have three patients[in the family], but we are running out of money,” Ke told the South China Morning Post.
He said that his doctor had told him that in the best-case scenario he might live for 10 years after his diagnosis while his wife might survive for longer.
He earlier told the Xunyang Evening Post, a local newspaper, that the family had been forced to rely on social security and loans from friends and family to help cover their medical costs.
The couple earn around 2,000 yuan (US$290) a month working on construction sites and factories, but their daughter’s treatment is costs them around 10,000 yuan a day.
After the story was widely circulated on Chinese social media, charities and over 44,000 internet users offered to donate money to help, raising 900,000 yuan within six hours, according to the local broadcaster.
The couple later released a video thanking people for their help.
“The money raised is sufficient for my daughter’s treatment. You can stop donating now,” said Wang with her husband standing beside her in the video.
In China, especially low-income rural areas, families like Ke and Wang’s face a constant struggle to pay medical bills which the basic public health insurance system does not cover.
Research by The Lancet found that inadequate government spending on health care meant that individuals and medical institutions were being burdened with the cost of treating cancer.
The study, published in October 2016, estimated that patients faced average annual costs of US$9,739 a year – US$1,000 more than the average household income.
Ke said that he could not estimate how much money the family might need in future – and would try to raise money again if needed – but added that he did not want to “waste the money of kind-hearted people”.