April 5, 2011

TAIWAN: Elderly Tao woman is given her dying wish: to go home

TAIPEI / The China Post / Taiwan / News / April 5, 2011

Tao woman transported home to die

A dying elderly woman from Orchid Island off Taiwan's southeastern coast finally got her wish yesterday to spend her final days at home when she was safely flown from Taitung County to her birthplace.

A member of the island's indigenous Tao people, the 87-year-old woman named Lee Lin Su-lian in Chinese, was transported home aboard a chartered Daily Air Corp. helicopter around 4 p.m. Monday in the company of her daughter.

Medical staff prepare to transfer a hospice patient to a helicopter in eastern Taiwan's Taitung County yesterday, to send her home to outlying Orchid Island. (CNA)

The 30-minute flight was made possible by the efforts of Taitung County Magistrate Huang Chien-ting, Legislator Lai Kun-cheng, who represents the county, and many others.

Lee, who had been receiving care at a hospice in Taitung, tried to return home over the weekend by ferry, but the ferry operator refused to accept her in light of her condition and the long trip of roughly three hours.

Daily Air agreed on Monday to transport Lee to Orchid Island before collecting the charter, which cost NT$450,000 (US$15,400). Huang signed his name to endorse the deal.

The magistrate took the initiative in raising funds online to pay the company after donating the first NT$50,000 himself.

The matter was particularly pressing for Lee because of the tribe's unique burial customs.

According to Chiang Chu-shan, a folklore culture worker, the Tao (also known as the Yami tribe) consider one's passing an “evil” or “cursed” death if a person dies while traveling or in places other than their birthplace.

It is also the tribe's tradition to have the deceased buried the same day of their death, during the daytime, which would have been impossible for Lee had she died in Taitung County.

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