Thu, Sep 18, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Tzu Chi founder not to appeal case

STAFF WRITER

Lawyers for the Buddhist Compassionate Relief Tzu Chi Foundation (慈濟功德會) yesterday said that the organization's founder Master Cheng Yen (證嚴法師) had decided not to appeal a civil lawsuit in the "pool of blood" defamation case.

Foundation spokesman Ho Jih-sheng (何日生) said that throughout the two-year lawsuit Cheng Yen had never intended to win anything but had tried to communicate with the complainants in the hope of settling out of court.

According to testimony given to the court in the original case, Cheng Yen visited a private clinic in Hualien 37 years ago and saw a pool of blood on the ground. She was told the blood was from an Aboriginal woman named Chen Chiou-en (陳秋吟), who had suffered a miscarriage. Chen could not pay an advance payment of NT$8,000 to get treatment and died on the way home.

Cheng Yen has since presented this story many times as her inspiration to establish a hospital that would never reject any patient. But she never mentioned the name of the doctor or clinic involved.

However, the family of Dr. Chuang Ju-kuei (莊汝貴), the doctor who sent his patient home for insufficient funds, sued Cheng Yen after her follower Lee Man-mei (李滿妹) identified the doctor as the owner of the clinic.

Last month Cheng Yen lost a civil lawsuit and was ordered to pay NT$1.01 million to Chuang.

Earlier this month, an Aboriginal man Chen Wen-chien (陳文謙), who had claimed to be one of the young Aboriginal men who had carried the woman to the clinic 37 years ago, confirmed Cheng Yen's story in a press conference.

Questioning the outcome of the civil case, Ho said that Tzu Chi lawyers had never questioned Chuang's character or medical ethics in public during the lawsuit, yet judges concluded that Chuang had made no mistakes when practicing medicine, thereby finding Cheng Yen at fault in the civil lawsuit.

"The wound won't heal if we continue to appeal," Cheng Yen said on Tuesday night.

Despite the controversial suit coming to an end, Master Shih Chao-hui (釋昭慧) of Buddhist Hongshi Institute said she would work with religious and human-rights groups to erect a monument in Hsinshe (新社) village of Hualien, the deceased woman's hometown, to commemorate "that tragedy" and express her sincere apologies to the indigenous people. Shih said this case underlines the unfair treatment indigenous people have to suffer.

In response to Cheng Yen's decision not to appeal, the Chuang family's lawyer Lu Sheng-hsien (呂勝賢) said yesterday that the family accepted the decision but still believed that the "pool of blood" story was purely fictional.

"Lee told Cheng Yen that the blood had been left by Chen Chiou-en and said publicly that she knew this because she went to Dr. Chuang's clinic a lot. But when she testified in court, she told the judge that she had only gone to the clinic once," Lu said.

When the judge showed Lee a picture of Chen Chiou-en and asked her to identify her, Lee replied that she was sure the woman in the picture was indeed Chen, Lu said.

"The judge was not convinced by Lee's testimony because Lee's reaction was strange. How could she identify someone she had met only once 37 years ago so firmly?" Lu asked.

Lu also quoted the ruling of the Hualien District Court that said that Chen Wen-chien's testimony was full of contradictions.

"All the question marks raised by Lee and Chen Wen-chien's testimonies indicate that the story told by Cheng Yen of the so-called `pool of blood' was entirely fictional," Lu said.

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