Mon, Nov 15, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Indonesian call for euthanasia riles Muslim population


For the past four months Hasan Kusuma has kept a vigil at the bedside of his wife in grubby Jakarta hospitals, neglecting his children and emptying his bank account to pay expensive doctors' bills.

No longer able to bear the pain of watching as she lies brain-damaged by medical complications, he has now begun Indonesia's first euthanasia campaign -- a hugely controversial step in the world's largest Muslim-populated country.

The right-to-die case, which some say exposes appalling standards of health care, has horrified many in the Southeast Asian nation and generated fierce resistance from Islamic academics.

It also spotlights contrasts between the growing support for euthanasia in some European countries and resistance in conservative Asia, where mercy killings are viewed as an abhorrent violation of deeply held beliefs.

Accountant Agian Nauli Siregar was a fit 39-year-old with a passion for mountaineering and skydiving when she entered hospital in July for the caesarian birth of her third child, a procedure that initially seemed routine.

Doctors at the hospital in Bogor south of Jakarta say Siregar suffered complications from the operation which left her brain-damaged.

For the past month she has been treated at Jakarta's Cipto Mangunkusumo hospital where neurologists now say her condition was caused by a cerebrovascular episode, or stroke, which starved her brain of blood.


But Kusuma says his wife's concern for her child was misdiagnosed as hypertension. He says she was given medicine that made her blood pressure soar, prompting doctors to give more drugs, after which she slipped into a coma.

She has now regained consciousness and her speech, sight and hearing have returned, but she does not register her surroundings.

"More than 80 percent of her brain is damaged and she's in a vegetative state," he said. "Doctors said it will take at least one year for her even to be able to recognize me. This is unbearable."

Kusuma has now launched a legal fight to have Siregar removed from life support, arguing that the state has denied her right to live by refusing to exempt him from expensive medical bills which he cannot afford.

He has also sued the doctors who first prescribed hypertension medications.

"From the beginning I have fought for her right to live but no one cares. Who wants to see his beloved wife die? But if nobody cares, I don't want to see her suffer any longer," he said.

"What did we do wrong? There was nothing wrong with my wife when she went to the hospital for labor. She was cheerful as ever but now she is as good as dead," he said.

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