Over the past three months or so, I have taken part in the battle against SARS in places such as Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Taipei Municipal Yang Ming Hospital and on Penghu. All these places horrified me and kept me awake at night.
My experience in the anti-SARS fight is like the strange feelings SARS patients have, many of whom have pains they find hard to describe.
But what I feel most deeply about is my experience at Yang Ming hospital. When I realized that all patients on the hospital's sixth and seventh floors were from homes for the elderly, in their 70s or 80s, my heart suddenly sank. I knew that we were faced with a completely different war.
I abhor the ruthlessness of the SARS virus, which has stretched its tentacles into the most sensitive areas of human society, putting human wisdom and values to the test.
The SARS epidemic is testing our family ties. The numerous Taiwanese businesspeople in China and veteran servicemen (who have contacts in China) here will become the most difficult element in the nation's SARS-prevention efforts. A resident in Hong Kong's Amoy Garden complex visiting his relatives in Taiwan brought the SARS virus that ended up taking his younger brother's life.
The SARS patients at Yang Ming hospital were later transferred to the Armed Forces Sung Shan Hospital. Some of them passed away, but they had received the best medical care from the government.
In contrast, China has dealt with the outbreak in Beijing and Guangzhou in a savage manner. When the World Health Organization (WHO) experts arrived in Beijing to investigate the epidemic, SARS patients were collected into cars and driven around on the streets to keep them from the WHO team's eyes. In the middle of the SARS outbreak, Beijing even sent patients to the countryside where medical care is poor, to help get the city off the WHO list of SARS-affected areas. Patients were also left unattended.
If we talk about the differences between Taiwan's and China's SARS prevention work, then humane hospice care and the defense of universal values are the most precious chapters in this country's SARS experience.
On June 16, when I led a delegation to attend the international press conference held by the WHO in Malaysia, the moment I most cherished and felt proud of was when, displaying the last slide, I elaborated on the universal values of Taiwan's SARS experience, ie, the humane care.
Friends, you asked me what we are fighting for and what we are insisting on. You asked, in the uproar over PFP Legislator Kao Ming-chien (高明見), why I detest China and the Beijing administration so much. It's because they capitalize on human ignorance to further their united front work and because they sacrifice people's dignity to remove the nation from the WHO's SARS travel advisory list.
Friends, night has fallen. Let's weep for China's barbarism.
Su Ih-jen is director of the Center for Disease Control.
Translated by Jackie Lin