Taiwan opposition condemns ex-President’s hospital move

Sudden government decision slammed as insensitive and risky

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The opposition condemned Friday’s unexpected move of jailed former President Chen Shui-bian to Taichung Prison’s Pei Teh Hospital ordered by the Ministry of Justice.
Chen, who is serving a 20-year jail term on charges of corruption, had been staying at Taipei’s Veterans General Hospital since September 21 for the treatment of a number of ailments, including severe depression, sleep apnea and non-typical Parkinson’s Disease.
Activists, including prominent doctors, have campaigned for medical parole because of his seriously deteriorating condition, but the government has repeatedly said he doesn’t qualify for the measure.
The opposition Democratic Progressive Party accused the MOJ of neglecting Chen’s health and medical human rights, with the sudden hospital move Friday morning going against a report presented by the Veterans General Hospital.
The former president’s health was so bad he needed special treatment and a positive environment, DPP vice secretary-general Lee Chun-yi quoted the hospital report as saying. He added that Chen was unlikely to receive such treatment at a prison facility.
Kuo Cheng-tien, a doctor close to Chen, warned the former president had been considering taking his own life. Kuo said he only learned Friday morning after the fact that Chen had been moved. The doctor cast doubt on Pei Teh’s ability to provide the necessary care, considering the ex-president suffered from a range of ailments. He was depressed, found it hard to walk on his own without falling, and suffered from insomnia and incontinence, Kuo said.
Another doctor close to Chen, National Taiwan University traumatology chair Ko Wen-jer, said the move to Taichung happened too suddenly, which could not be good for the patient.
The former president’s son, Chen Chih-chung, said the MOJ was breaking every medical and professional practice by moving his father across the country in the early morning without informing anyone. The ministry’s behavior was unacceptable, the younger Chen said.
He went to visit his father in Taichung shortly before noon. The Veterans General Hospital had recommended Chen spend his recovery in a home environment, which amounted to medical parole, the son said. Yet, the MOJ decided to go against expert medical advice, showing an illegal, inhumane and cruel face, he said.
The government was turning the clock back by moving Chen from an outside hospital back into the prison system, Chen Chih-chung said. Medical care at Pei Teh could not be of a higher standard than at the Taipei hospital, he added, warning that the move could only result in a worsening condition for the former president.
DPP lawmakers went to the MOJ news conference about Chen’s move Friday morning to protest. A number of legislators reportedly stomped on Justice Minister Tseng Yung-fu’s door before entering and asking him questions about the case.
The MOJ said that following seven months of treatment at the Veterans General Hospital, Chen’s condition had improved and stabilized, allowing him to leave the institution. At the news conference, footage was shown to underline the ministry’s claims that the medical facility was up to scratch and provided Chen with a positive environment for his further recovery.
The ministry said Chen had not expressed any opposition to the move, a claim met by DPP legislator Yeh Yi-jin accusing it of political motives and of fomenting social confrontation.
The opposition party said it was not ruling out taking legal action against Tseng for allowing politics to take precedence over medical rights.
According to the MOJ, Chen will be staying in a room with an area of 30 square meters, while a special medical team will care for him and his family will be allowed an unlimited number of visits.
The DPP accused the government of moving Chen in order to draw away attention from the planned Legislative Yuan vote about the referendum question for the fourth nuclear plant. An opposition boycott prevented the vote from taking place Friday.