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Legislature urges medical parole for Chen

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Legislature's Foreign and National Defense Committee yesterday passed a motion urging medical parole for former President Chen Shui-bian.

Authorities at Taipei Veterans General Hospital reported on Chen's condition before the standing committee on Monday at the invitation of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus.

Following the report, DPP lawmakers proposed an impromptu motion that urged the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) to release Chen on medical parole. The 13-member committee entered cross-party negotiations and approved the motion yesterday afternoon.

DPP lawmakers also proposed prison personnel refrain from speaking to Chen about his return. This motion encountered opposition from Kuomintang lawmakers Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) and Chan Kai-chen (詹凱臣) and was withdrawn.

Chen Shui-bian's private office has responded with a statement thanking lawmakers for shelving party differences and backing his medical parole case.

The Foreign and National Defense Committee comprises five DPP lawmakers and seven members of the ruling party.

Hospital Report

Earlier Monday, authorities at the Veterans General updated lawmakers on Chen's condition.

Chen, who is serving a 20-year sentence for graft and related charges, was transferred to the state-run hospital last September to be treated for cardiopulmonary disease and other disorders.

The hospital said that Chen's acute disorders have cleared up under treatment, and that the patient should be transferred elsewhere to be treated for his chronic illnesses.

“Taipei Veterans General Hospital handles acute diseases, and we have many other patients with the need for such treatment. In our country there are many chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes. If everyone with chronic diseases was hospitalized, the expense would be enormous,” said hospital superintendent Lin Fang-yue (林芳郁).

But the patient still needs care for chronic conditions, said attending physician Chou Yuan-hwa (周元華)

At the state-run hospital, Chen has been diagnosed with severe clinical depression, severe apnea, Atypical Parkinsonism, stammering and atrophy of the brain.

“Today we have two recommendations. One is home care, a more common course of treatment for psychiatric problems. Our second recommendation is to at least transfer him into a hospital closer to home — which allows his family a more ideal situation for providing support,” Chou continued.

Suicide

Chou stressed that his professional opinion leans away from returning the patient to Taipei Prison.

“Is Chen Shui-bian at risk of suicide if he is returned to Taipei Prison?” asked DPP Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) at the committee.

“Yes, absolutely,” said Chou.

Meanwhile, Lin said that the hospital's role is to offer medical advice, and that the legal decision on Chen belongs to the MOJ.

3 Weeks

The MOJ, which appeared cool on the call for home care, said to expect a decision three weeks after they receive the medical report.

The MOJ'S Agency of Corrections (矯正署) continues to believe that Chen Shui-bian can receive adequate care in a hospital facility, said Vice Justice Minister Chen Ming-tang (陳明堂) to lawmakers.

The official said that medical parole cases based on conditions like clinical depression are uncommon. “The MOJ has not had one in the past five years.”

Upon formal receipt of the hospital report, the MOJ will evaluate the case and issue a decision within three weeks, he said.

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Chou Yuan-hwa (周元華), a psychiatrist and member of former President Chen Shui-bian's medical team at Taipei Veterans General Hospital, reports to the Legislative Yuan, yesterday. ...

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