Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cathedral to pay paralysed woman

Sep 19, 2009

She was injured when tree branches in its compound fell on her
By K. C. Vijayan

CHINA national Wang Shu Xiang was walking with a friend along a pavement in North Bridge Road when branches from a tree in the compound of St Andrew's Cathedral began raining down on them.

Madam Wang, 44, a 'study mama' in Singapore with her school-going son, was struck about the head and body in the incident on Aug25 last year.

The injuries she suffered left her paralysed from the chest down, and she is now unable to move her legs.

But when she tried to get compensation from the Anglican cathedral, it initially said no.

It claimed the mishap was an act of God, and beyond its control. It also blamed the landscape contractor for failing to do a proper job.

But in a closed-door hearing this week, just over a year after the mishap, the cathedral changed its mind and has now decided to compensate her.

Its lawyer, Mr K. Anparasan, told The Straits Times that the cathedral's position had never been on the issue of liability as such, but about the appropriate compensation for Madam Wang.

He added that both Madam Wang and the cathedral were now discussing the compensation amount. If they cannot reach an agreement, the High Court will decide how much the cathedral's insurers should pay.

'It is unfortunate that this freak incident occurred,' Mr Anparasan said, adding that church officials were concerned with Madam Wang's welfare.

'They understand the suffering she and her family are going through, and are hoping that a fair and reasonable financial settlement will be reached to alleviate her suffering,' he said.

The sum Madam Wang is seeking is expected to exceed $400,000 - to cover hefty medical bills, pain and suffering, and the loss of future earnings. She ran a business while in China.

When she filed her suit in January, the church objected and, among other things in its defence, said that the mishap was an act of God.

An act of God is a legal defence against a mishap that is not caused by human failing. The church said it had done everything which could be reasonably expected to ensure the church grounds and its flora were safe for the public and its parishioners.

Madam Wang told The Straits Times: 'It happened so fast, I did not know what hit me. Wood dust covered me all over.'

She suffered fractures to her neck and ribs, and injuries to her spinal cord.

She spent 50 days at the Singapore General Hospital, where she underwent several operations, including spinal treatments and bone grafting.

After she was discharged on Oct16, Madam Wang underwent further care and rehabilitative treatment in Beijing, but remained paralysed from below the chest.

'It was like falling from Heaven to Hell,' she said.

She returned to Singapore in April to be with her 11-year-old son, who is still studying here.

She said doctors had told her that her chances of recovery were slim. 'Only a miracle can cure me,' she said.

Her lawyers, Mr Hoh Chin Cha and Mr N. Srinivasan, commended the church for conceding liability and sparing Madam Wang the trauma of having to go through a trial.

'They have spared her the pain of having to live through the anguish all over again had the matter gone to trial,' they said.

[The theological implications of this case is mind-boggling. First it was an act of God. The church as the representative of God in the mundane world should therefore compensate the woman. However, if the act was indeed at the hands of God, then compensating the woman who be contrary to the intent of God. After all, if God had struck her down, obviously he had good reasons to do so, either to test her or to punish her. Compensating her would be thwarting the will of God!

But, the woman is not a member of the church, and therefore does not subscribe to the teachings or the doctrines of the church or God. Therefore she does not fall within the "jurisdiction" of God to punish or test. Ah, but God is the creator of all, so the woman too is a child of God, and even if she does not acknowledge it, is God's creation and subject to the will of God.

Which means that the Church did a bad thing to compensate her as this is contrary to God's will. :-) ]

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