Ma insists Chen medical parole not a ‘political’ issue

By Jake Chung  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Thu, Aug 30, 2012 - Page 3

Rational discussion and calm tempers are needed when discussing whether to grant former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) medical parole and the issue should be considered from a professional, instead of political, point of view, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday.

Addressing Chen’s issue in a lengthy post on his Facebook page, Ma said that medical parole for the former president is a legal and medical issue, and not a political one, and therefore should not be politicized.

Chen’s family members and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have urged the Ma administration to grant Chen medical parole, saying that the former president, who is serving a 17-and-a-half-year sentence for corruption, has become severely ill after he started serving time in Taipei Prison.

Ma wrote that the issue is not convoluted as it seems, but that it has become complicated after political factors came into play.

After inmates are granted medical parole, they may stay in hospital or their own home during the recuperation process and the freedom allotted them is very much like that of parolees, Ma said.

Commenting on the difference between medical parole and sending a prisoner to an outside hospital under armed escort, Ma said that an inmate visiting a hospital under armed escort is returned to prison after treatment to continue serving his or her sentence.

On the other hand, medical parole gives prisoners the freedom to visit a hospital for medical treatment or to rest at home without any prison officials overseeing their actions, and is usually reserved for those with serious health issues, Ma said.

It is because medical parole gives prisoners that previously suspended right of movement that it has set such a high standard, Ma said, adding that for prisoners to receive medical parole, their condition must be one that cannot be adequately treated by the prison’s medical staff, and even then the request has to be approved by the Ministry of Justice’s corrections agency.

Citing ministry statistics, Ma said that up to the end of last month, a total of 171 inmates had received medical parole, most of whom were unable to care for themselves.

Data showed that 44 percent of the 171 had late-stage cancer, while others included people who were half-paralyzed because of cerebrovascular diseases, needed breathing masks due to cardiopulmonary diseases, or suffered kidney or liver failure, he said.

Medical parole for Chen can only be considered when professional doctors examine him and they confirm that he needs better medical treatment than that available in prison, Ma wrote.

“If we do not have professional doctors confirm that Chen is indeed ill, it would be like giving Chen parole, which is illegal,” Ma said.

Separately yesterday, the ministry said if Chen does not meet the standards for medical parole, then political pressure should not be laid on the prison, asking it to disregard the law and give Chen medical bail.