Imprisoned former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) could develop dementia within six months if he is not given proper medical attention, a physician said yesterday. Visiting overseas human rights activists have also expressed concerns about Chen’s medical welfare.
Chen, who has been out of prison for medical examinations since last Thursday, is suffering from a stutter induced by brain damage and could develop dementia within six months or a year, National Taiwan University Hospital physician Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said yesterday.
Ko, who visited and diagnosed Chen in Taipei Prison, where he is serving a 17-and-a-half-year sentence for corruption, made the comments as he and Ketagalan Institute chief executive Cheng Sheu-shin (鄭淑心) yesterday appealed to the Control Yuan over the way in which the judicial system had dealt with Chen’s deteriorating health.
The placing of political concerns before medical expertise by the Ministry of Justice is why the former president’s health has deteriorated so much in prison, Ko said.
Meanwhile, a visiting delegation from the US-based Human Rights Action Center issued a statement on Monday expressing concerns about Chen’s prison cell.
The delegation included Hans Wahl, a Paris-based human rights activist, and Harreld Dinkins, an expert on East and Southeast Asian affairs, neither of whom are affiliated with any political organization.
Chen’s treatment in prison could only be compared to that given to high-risk offenders, Wahl said, adding that while Chen is now allowed access to a desk, he has to eat and sleep on the floor as well as endure inadequate sanitary facilities which are not normally found in modern democracies governed by the rule of law.
Chen’s lack of regular contact with other inmates and very limited contact with the outside world also posed concerns, he said.
“Imprisonment is itself a punishment and should never be used for further punishment,” he said, adding that an advanced democracy should not “allow itself to sink to meet only the lowest standards in its treatment of those it holds in its prison system.”