Confirming that former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has been diagnosed with cerebral atrophy, Taipei Veterans General Hospital superintendent Lin Fang-yue (林芳郁) yesterday said it would be better to have caregivers look after Chen at home rather than in the hospital.
However, the Ministry of Justice still has to make an assessment and the final decision, Lin said.
Lin said Chen has been doing well after his hemorrhoid surgery on March 14.
“Chou Yuan-hua (周元華), the attending physician for Chen, has just returned to Taiwan today [Thursday]. We will wait for his medical team to complete and verify the report, which will be submitted to the Ministry of Justice on Friday,” Lin added.
Separately yesterday, a summary report by US-based neurologist Samuel Chou (周烒明) recommended that the best treatment for Chen is immediate home care.
The report follows a brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam that Samuel Chou, a board member of the ALS & Neuromuscular Research Foundation in San Francisco with more than 40 years of experience in the field of neurology, conducted on Jan. 16 at the request of Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital’s vice superintendent Chen Shun-sheng (陳順勝), a member of Chen’s voluntary civilian medical team.
The Taipei Times obtained an advance copy of the report ahead of its official release today.
The former president, who is serving a 20-year sentence for corruption, has been staying at Taipei Veterans General Hospital for treatment after suffering from various complications, including sleep apnea, severe depression, minor brain damage and suspected Parkinson’s Disease.
Concern over Chen Shui-bian’s human rights was raised in the report, as the former president has been subjected to continuous light exposure and sleep deprivation in prison for years. Samuel Chou said he concurred with Amnesty International Australia’s observation, which described the treatment as “cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment for any person.”
The detrimental treatment is the cause of the neurological abnormalities which “must be considered direct consequences of the prison conditions,” Samuel Chou said in his report, adding that Chen Shui-bian’s current condition has deteriorated in comparison with September last year and could be “irreversible” if no active measures are taken.
The best treatment for Chen Shui-bian is “immediate home care, with supervising medical professionals and management by rehabilitation specialists in a home environment surrounded by family and loved ones,” the report said.
A home environment will be important “in halting further deterioration” and in beginning “the slow and long process towards alleviating the symptoms,” it concluded.
The report found that Chen Shui-bian has been suffering from speech impediment, emotional disturbance, cerebellar defect, poor memory, cognitive disorders or early signs of dementia, among other symptoms.
Joseph Lin, a former professor at the University of California at Davis who began following Chen Shui-bian’s medical condition last year and provided the report, said the summary would be sent to Washington for the reference of a group of US lawmakers who have been monitoring the treatment and health condition of the former president.
The US representatives include Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Steve Chabot of Ohio, who met Lin last December and expressed his wish to meet with Chen Shui-bian on his next trip to Taiwan, Lin said, adding that Chabot would like to collect more information and assessments on Chen Shui-bian’s case.
US Representative Robert Andrews of New Jersey has also written a letter to the US Department of State expressing his concern over the prison conditions and medical care for Chen Shui-bian, said Lin, who is visiting Taiwan in a private capacity.
Lin, a Taiwanese-American, led a medical team of US-based experts on a trip to Taiwan in June last year and concluded that the former president’s confinement in prison was “unacceptable” and had affected his physical and mental health. The team later submitted its findings to the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.
Additional reporting by staff writer