Taiwan ex-President Chen Shui-bian should return home: Doctor

Hospital says end of treatment near

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Former President Chen Shui-bian’s health is gradually improving but he should be allowed to go home because he is not fit to return to prison, the Veterans General Hospital said Saturday after cable stations showed footage of him in obvious poor health.
Chen, who is serving 18 years in prison on corruption charges, has been at the hospital for treatment of a severe depression since September. The Control Yuan, the nation’s top government watchdog, approved a report Friday condemning the Ministry of Justice for its unprofessional treatment of the former head of state.
In the footage, Chen was seen losing his balance and almost being unable to walk forward in a straight line if not held up. His hands shook uncontrollably and he had a bad stammer.
The Taipei hospital said Saturday that Chen’s deep depression, hand tremors and sleep apnea had shown some improvements, but appetite and brain problems had not made any marked progress. On the whole, ‘slow progress’ was the best term to describe his condition, the hospital said, adding that it did not recommend his return to the Taipei Prison even if a quick ending of his treatment was expected.
“In a report to the prison last year, the hospital suggested Chen be allowed to go home,” the Chinese-language United Evening News quoted Veterans General Hospital psychiatrist Chou Yuan-hua, who is in charge of Chen’s case, as saying.
Hospital President Lin Fang-yu said its doctors only considered Chen’s health, while other problems were up to the judiciary to solve.
Doctors attributed the trembling of his hands to symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, even though tests had not diagnosed the illness. The hospital had been giving him appropriate medicine, while surgery had cut down the incidence of sleep apnea by half, improving his quality of sleep, reports said. The condition is marked by periods of about 10 to 30 seconds when breathing almost completely stops. The number of nightly incidents had dropped to 100 from 200, reports said.
Even though his treatment at the hospital would soon come to an end, the support of his relatives would be crucial in his recovery, making it unadvisable he should return to prison, doctors said.
Opposition Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Su Tseng-chang said Saturday the footage and the Control Yuan report showed that Chen should receive immediate medical parole. Prominent physicians and human rights campaigners have been demanding government action on the subject for some time.
Two thirds of local councils have already passed resolutions calling for medical parole, Su said, adding the issue was a matter of medical and human rights. The Control Yuan report showed that Chen could not return to prison but needed a suitable environment where emergency medical assistance was possible, Su said.
On Friday, the Taipei High Court ruled that Chen should serve 20 years in prison following a guilty verdict on charges of accepting illegal payments in return for approving the merger of two financial holdings. His wife, Wu Shu-jen, also saw her sentence extended to 20 years while they were fined NT$250 million (US$8.4 million) and NT$200 million (US$6.7 million) respectively, reports said.