A "whimsical" press release from the Bureau of National Health Insurance (BNHI) ranking longevity according to star signs that attracted massive media coverage has resulted in the threat of a lawsuit from a man who said his wife's state of mind has been adversely affected by the report.
The bureau received a telephone call from a man complaining that his wife's depression had worsened markedly since she read in the papers that bureau figures showed people with her astrological sign, Aries, lived the shortest lives, according to the Chinese language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times' sister paper).
Saying that his wife had been threatening suicide on a daily basis since reading the reports, the man rebuked the bureau for releasing the analysis and threatened to sue, the story reported.
The bureau has been under attack ever since its astrological analysis of the Department of Health's 2006 death statistics hit the news stands.
The story was the Chinese-language China Times' front-page story on Wednesday and received prominent coverage in most newspapers.
With an average life span of 74.53 years old, Capricorns were said to be the star sign that live the longest, the bureau release said, followed by Aquarius and Libra. The shortest-living were Aries at 73.43 years old, while Taurus and Leo were the next shortest-lived.
Although the release stressed that the analysis was meant to be "whimsical," that did not stop members of the medical community and the public at large from criticizing the bureau over the move.
"In order to maintain the most basic appearance of the bureau's professionalism, leave the astrology to `star princes,'" ran one letter to the editor in the United Daily News on Jan. 10.
The Taiwan Medical Reform Foundation and the Alliance for the Oversight of the BNHI also weighed in publicly with their disapproval.
Bureau officials said that they'd been blindsided by the amount of bad publicity generated by the foray into fortune-telling.
"News from the bureau had been slow, so we took the opportunity to remind people to take care of themselves," said Chung Yueh-yi (鍾越漪), a deputy executive in the underwriting department of the BNHI.
"Aries tend to be workaholics, Taurus tend to be homebodies who sacrifice too much for their families while Leos tend to focus to much on appearances," Chung said, commenting on the three "shortest-living" star signs.
Chung conceded that the release was probably not scientifically sound.
"It's true, we were only working from one year's data," Chung said.
As for those who reacted negatively to the news, Chung said that she was sure that they were in the minority.
"I'm an Aries myself," Chung said "we're naturally optimistic."