Rejecting Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu’s (曾勇夫) claim that psychiatric medication was administered to former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) with Chen’s consent, Chen’s family and his office yesterday demanded an explanation of why he was given the medication without his knowledge.
Chen Chih-chung (陳致中), Chen Shui-bian’s son, said on Friday that the medical team at the state-run Taoyuan General Hospital discovered the drug Ativan, which is usually used to treat anxiety, was on the former president’s list of prescribed medications.
Later that same day Tseng told the legislature that the former president had told prison doctors in January last year that he often had slight headaches and trouble sleeping and that Chen Shui-bian had agreed to doctors’ suggestion that he take the minor tranquilizer Ativan.
Chen Shui-bian’s daughter, Chen Hsin-yu (陳幸妤), found Ativan on her father’s list of prescribed medications on Thursday and asked why it was there, Tseng added.
She then agreed her father should continue to take the medication after staff from Taoyuan General Hospital explained to her what had happened, Tseng said.
Dismissing Tseng’s account, the former president’s office said in a statement yesterday that Chen Shui-bian never agreed to take psychiatric medication while in Taipei Prison and that Chen Hsin-yu did not agree to continued use of the drug after she found out about it on Thursday.
The former president has never seen a psychiatrist in his life and he never told prison doctors he had trouble sleeping or any psychiatric problem, the statement said, adding that Chen Shui-bian mistakenly took the drug because he thought it was a medicine for colds.
Now knowing it to be Ativan, he refuses to take it, the statement said, adding that Chen Hsin-yu had not agreed to her father’s continued usage of the drug.
The office demanded that the prison explain what diagnosis it had made for it to prescribe Chen Shui-bian such a drug, and why he had been taking it for the past 14 months.
It added that according to medical research, taking Ativan for long periods might damage the brain or the central nervous system, and cause depression, amnesia, hallucinations or other serious side-effects.
Taipei Prison spokesperson Su Kun-ming (蘇坤銘) said yesterday that in January last year the former president said he was having problems with his heart and that prison doctors, on secondment from Taoyuan General Hospital, prescribed the medicine.
The prison respected the professionalism of the doctors and did not question the content of the medication, he added.
Chen, who is serving a 17-and-a-half-year prison sentence for corruption, was scheduled to stay at the Taoyuan General Hospital for a week to undergo a cardiac catheterization procedure on Thursday.
Doctors subsequently said Chen’s acute cardiac syndrome could be cured by medication rather than by inserting stents.
Wang Wei-chieh (王偉杰), spokesperson of the Taoyuan General Hospital, described Ativan as a commonly prescribed drug used to regulate the autonomic nervous system and assist with relieving symptoms such as anxiety, disturbance and insomia, adding that doctors prescribe the drug to patients who display any of the symptoms mentioned above.
According to Wang, Chen Shui-bian initially took half of a 0.5mg Ativan pill twice a day, then the dose was diminished to half a pill once a day.