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Talk of the Day -- Doctor who fought blackfoot disease passes away

Talk of the Day -- Doctor who fought blackfoot disease passes away

Dr. Wang King-ho, known for his commitment to fighting blackfoot disease, a disease with gangrene-like symptoms that affects the feet and sometimes the fingers, died Thursday of brain hemorrhage. He was 98. Wang graduated from the Medical School of Tokyo in 1941 and practiced medicine there for a period of time before returning to Taiwan to care for his ill mother.
Back home, he devoted himself for more than half a century to his patients, focusing especially on blackfoot disease in southern Taiwan. He was honored with a medical service award in 1997 and was decorated by then-President Chen Shui-bian in 2007. The following are excerpts of reports by major newspapers in memory of the benevolent doctor: United Daily News: Blackfoot disease was prevalent in southern coastal areas -- Beimen and Syuejia in Tainan County (now part of Tainan City) and Budai and Yijhu townships in Chiayi -- during the 1940s and 1950s. The disease was caused by arsenic from underground water. During that time tap water piping was still a luxury for impoverished families, leaving them prone to the disease due to their reliance on underground water. Wang treated nearly 4,000 people afflicted with blackfoot disease, patiently picking out the maggots from their decaying feet. He and his wife also set up a handicraft training center for blackfoot patients who had their feet amputated to earn a livelihood. For those who did not manage to survive the disease, Wang helped bury those whose own relatives shunned their disease-ravaged bodies. Wang always believed that the disease could be beaten as long as people did not drink from underground water. Under pressure from him and others, the government finally moved to install tap water piping in areas where the disease was prevalent. After his retirement, his clinic was transformed to a blackfoot memorial hall to remember the sad page of Taiwan's history. The hall has in recent years become a popular tourism spot. (March 15, 2014) Liberty Times: Born in 1916, Wang was the only doctor in Tainan's Beimen Township after Japan surrendered Taiwan to the Republic of China in 1945. He and his wife would not only treat patients for free, they would also cheer them up when they faced the unfortunate fate of having fingers or an entire foot amputated. When patients bemoaned their misfortune despite having led a good life, Wang would often cite anecdotes from the Bible to comfort them. His life story inspired author Huang Chung-hsiung to write a novel based on his achievements, which was adapted into the film "A Tweeting Bird." The film won the best film award at the Asia-Pacific Film Festival in 1997. China Times: Between the three of them, Wang King-ho, missionary Lillian R. Dickson, and surgeon Hsieh Wei helped treat some 4,000 blackfoot disease patients over 11 years before the government stepped in. It was not until 1972 when then-Premier Chiang Ching-kuo visited a free clinic for blackfoot disease that the government gradually began taking over care of the afflicted. Wang closed the clinic after his wife died in 1996. (March 15, 2014) (By Lilian Wu)