Sonam Tamang’s life support removed

Sonam Tamang’s life support system was removed on 13th April 2020 witnessed by four people and a funeral was held for her on 14th April according to Yumiko Kan, a social worker in Japan who has been helping Sonam Tamang’s family.

This is after consent for this was given by her family members through the government to the hospital in Japan.

Sonam Tamang’s mother Dhan Maya Tamang talking to the paper said that she was informed by the government that there no hope to bring Sonam back and so she and the family gave its consent to remove the life support for Sonam Tamang.

A medical report by the Fukuoka Higashi Medical Center of 10th January 2020 had confirmed that Sonam Tamang, 28, had suffered from ‘Brain Death,’ and that her condition is not reversible. Brain death is considered as legal death since the patient is no longer there.

The test confirmed that there was no kind of movement or seizures; it confirmed deep coma; the most essential brainstem reflexes were all absent; the important EEG was flat; there was no auditory brainstem response and spontaneous breathing was absent.

The two doctors, Dr Eri Tanaka and Dr Hiroshi Nakane based on the above medical diagnosis concluded ‘Brain Death,’ and affixed their seals on the report at 4.45 pm on 10th January.

Dhan Maya said that the family members were supposed to attend this removal of the life support and the funeral but they cannot go due to international travel restrictions with COVID-19.

Dhan Maya said that her daughter had gone to Japan telling her that she would pay off the loan in the first year and then in the second year buy her a piece of land so that they could build their own house.

The mother said Sonam in fact made her resign from her PWD work in Dagapela as she had a knee problem and Sonam wanted to make her comfortable and not have her mother work by the roadside.

Today Dhan Maya has even lost access to the government housing in Dagapela as she no longer works in the PWD and is instead staying with her elder sister in Tsirang.

Though she and her elder sister are married to the same man they had separate households and for all purposes the Dagapela government house was home for Dhan Maya, Sonam Tamang and Sonam’s two brothers.

Dhan Maya said that when she was in Japan she got a message from a PWD Engineer in Dagapela asking her to vacate the house as a new structure has to be built.

Dhan Maya said she is saddened with her daughter’s condition but there is not much of an option now.

She expressed her gratitude to His Majesty for granting Kidu and waiving of the entire loan of Sonam Tamang, saying that she would never have been able to pay it.

Sonam’s roommate Tashi, her classmate Thukten, the Bhutanese councilor in Japan and a priest were to witness the removal of the machine from Sonam Tamang, according to Yumiko Kan.

Yumiko Kan earlier said, during the prayer recitation, Dhan Maya will be listening to the prayer along with them through audio call and during the funeral, well wishers in Japan had planned to do a video call to Sonam’s family back at home.

Sonam’s brother Yanas Tamang was supposed to be a witness but due to COVID-19, none of the family can make it to Japan.

The supporters and well wishers sought permission on whether they can go ahead with the funeral and Dhan Maya gave the permission for the funeral ceremony with a heavy heart.

Earlier they had planned that all the Bhutanese youths in Fukuoka would join Sonam’s funeral but they thought the gathering would be risky for everyone given the situation.

The government gave a certain amount for Sonam’s funeral ceremony.

There was also a plan to bring back Sonam’s body but due to COVID-19, it did not go as planned.

“This is the most painful thing for a mother to be not around her daughter for the last time,” said Yumiko.

The Prime Minister’s office, had said the exact dates is not fixed and it may change. The PMO has a copy of the consent letter signed by Dhan Maya.

However, Yumiko said there was no change in plan and the doctors there had set up the date and that they went on that schedule and the same also applies for the funeral ceremony.

Sonam went to Japan in October, 2017 under controversial ‘Learn and Earn Program’ (LEP) and in September 2018 she fell sick and went into coma. From September 2018, her life completely depended on a life-supporting or ventilation machine at an Intensive Care Unit in Japan.

The LEP program is currently being prosecuted through an ACC case and a separate RBP case against the agents and involved officials.

She had Tuberculosis first which was complicated by Meningitis. Her situation was aggravated by working under harsh conditions in a factory in Japan.

Her situation, first reported by this paper in July 2019, evoked tremendous public sympathy for her and her mother leading to various fund raising moves that led to Nu 2.3 mn coming in donations from Bhutanese in Bhutan and all over the world.

At the time there was no ‘brain death’ prognosis as attempts were being made to resuscitate her and a test had not yet been done.

Dhan Maya gave permission to the paper to publish her account.

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