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September 22, 2017

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Academics call for better medical care for imprisoned ex-president

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Members of Academia Sinica yesterday released a petition, urging better medical care for imprisoned former President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

In response, staff members of the former president's office released a statement thanking the academics.

The petition, however, does not reflect the official position of Academia Sinica. The initiator of the petition, Yun-fan Liaw (廖運範), explained that the petition was undersigned by academics in their capacity as experts on medicine and public health.

A patient's human rights take precedence over politics, Liaw said.

The Taichung Veterans General Hospital's diagnosis states that "the patient should receive full-day care ... refrain from attending court ... leave the current environment in which he is imprisoned and be allowed to recuperate at home or other viable methods that will improve his condition more effectively," Liaw added.

Physicians attach the greatest importance to expertise, and no one should intervene in the treatment of a patient on any basis other than a medical one, Liao said, urging the relevant authorities to "change the way" the former president is currently being cared for, explaining that the change doesn't necessarily have to involve medical parole, and home care can be considered as an option.

"Regardless of what he did in the past, he is still a person," academician Ding-shinn Chen (陳定信) said.

The petition was undersigned by 21 academics. There are currently 258 at Academia Sinica.

The former president's office said that several evaluations have all reached the same conclusion, namely that Chen's health condition is worsening and that the only way to improve his condition would be for him to leave the prison and receive health care at home.

Government Response

In response to the petition, the Ministry of Justice said that according to the Prison Act (監獄行刑法), "home care" is not an option for inmates, adding, however, that medical parole, medical treatment under custody and transfer to other prisons or hospitals are.

The ministry said that Chen's current condition does not qualify him for medical parole, adding that it cannot break the law by allowing Chen to receive care at home.

Taichung Veterans General Hospital's diagnosis does not take into account the fact that the former president is an inmate and what the relevant regulations are, the ministry said.

According to both Taichung Veterans General Hospital and Pei-de Hospital, Chen does not qualify for medical parole, the ministry said, adding that it can only act within the boundaries of the nation's laws.

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