Saying that jailed former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has severe depression, Taipei Veterans General Hospital (TVGH) yesterday recommended that Chen be transferred to a hospital with a specialized psychiatric department for further treatment.
Chou Yuan-hua (周元華), a psychiatrist at the hospital, told a press conference held jointly with Taipei Prison to explain Chen’s medical situation that Chen has severe depression and anxiety, and that many depression sufferers can also have physical symptoms such as headaches and chest tightness.
The hospital added that a speech impediment from which Chen is suffering is caused by major depression, rather than a stroke or dementia.
Chou said the former head of state needs to be hospitalized to receive treatment for his depression, a course of treatment that can take from nine months to two years.
He said that while the TVGH has the ability to treat people with depression, the doctor-patient relationship is as important as the medical treatment, adding that the medical environment and family support should also be taken into account when choosing a hospital.
The hospital therefore recommended that Chen be transferred to a specialized psychiatric hospital, he added.
Chen, serving a 17-and-a-half-year sentence for corruption in Taipei Prison, has been hospitalized since Sept. 21 and his family has on several occasions expressed doubt over the credibility of the hospital because it falls under the government’s Veterans Affairs Commission.
In response to the hospital’s statement, Taipei Prison Deputy Warden Su Ching-chun (蘇清俊) said the prison would evaluate every possibility carefully after it receives the complete test results and diagnoses from the hospital.
He said that if Chen cannot be treated in prison and has to go to a hospital, it would probably be the Taipei City Hospital’s Songde branch or the Taoyuan Mental Hospital.
Su added Chen’s condition does not qualify him to be granted medical parole.
Separately yesterday, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers again appealed to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to grant Chen medical parole, saying: “President Ma has come to a critical juncture to make the decision.”
It is “an eminent problem” that both the governing and opposition parties have to deal with, because Chen Shui-bian is “in a critical health condition,” DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said.
The decision Ma makes would determine whether Chen can carry on living, Ker said, urging Ma to give Taiwan a chance and Chen an opportunity to live.
At this juncture in history, Ma could make a decision that can reflect concerns related to medical humanitarianism, the dignity of a former head of state, social harmony and the possibility of ending the political division in the country, Ker said.
DPP Legislator Hsu Tain-tsair (許添財) said Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) supported the appeal that Chen should be granted medical parole.
“I saw Premier Chen this morning in the legislative building. He extended his hands to me and told me that he discussed the matter with [Legislative] Speaker Wang [Jin-pyng (王金平)] last week,” Hsu said.
DPP Legislator Mark Chen (陳唐山) said he also had a chance to talk to Sean Chen yesterday and he received the same information from Sean Chen as Hsu did.
At a separate setting yesterday, when approached by press for verification, Premier Chen denied that he supported A-bian receiving medical parole, saying that he supported a review of the existing rules regarding privileges, including medical care, granted to convicted heads of state under the Statute Governing Preferential Treatment to Retired Presidents and Vice Presidents (卸任總統副總統禮遇條例).
The Executive Yuan later issued a statement saying that DPP lawmakers brought up the Chen Shui-bian case with Sean Chen in which the premier, in response, said he supported a comprehensive review of the privileges system, but did not mention any specific case.
Later yesterday, in response to a question by DPP Legislator Lee Chun-yi (李俊俋) on the legislative floor during a question-and-answer session, the premier declined to offer his “personal views” on whether Chen Shui-bian should be granted medical parole.
“I consistently hold the view that a decision on medical parole is based on science and law. It is not a political decision. If I were prison warden of Taipei Prison, I would demand a detailed health report on [Chen Shui-bian] from the Taipei Veterans General Hospital and deal with the matter in accordance with the law,” he said.
He added that, in line with the Prison Act (監獄行刑法), whether to grant medical parole to an inmate is a decision made by the director of the Agency of Corrections of the Ministry of Justice, currently Wu Sen-Chang (吳憲璋).
Pressed by Lee on his stance, the premier said he could not reveal his personal views, to refrain from influencing Wu in making a decision on the case.