Taiwanese are some of the most superstitious people you’re ever likely to come across, particular when it comes to death and the afterlife: No whistling at night cos it summons ghosts; no letting kids walk past those pain-in-the-arse funeral marquees that block off entire streets; no fourth floors or things involving the number four in general as it sounds like the word for death – the list of irrational practices is mind-boggling.
So, despite the weirdities that one regularly comes across living on this little island, to read that punters in Taichung are taking bets on when cancer patients will die is actually pretty surprising.
The story was apparently first reported by Britain’s own Daily Mirror and has subsequently been doing the rounds on Facebook. Relatives and even doctors at hospitals in the city are in on the betting, which has become a lucrative NT$100m industry. Even more mean-spirited is the fact that the bettors are oldsters themselves. The idea of them rubbing their hands together in anticipation as they watch their peers drop like flies is unsavoury but undeniably comical (pretty much straight out of the Old Gits sketch above).
With permission from the family (come on now, you don’t think these people are completely without scruple do you?), those wanting to have a flutter are allowed to give the patients the once over to give them an informed idea about when the poor bastards will shuffle off their mortal coil.
With staff involved, one does have to wonder about ‘dead’ cert tips courtesy of a helping hand …
“He won’t last past Wednesday?”
“Are you sure about that, Dr. Lee?”
“Oh, believe me, I can guarantee it”