I was awakened by a phone call at 2 a.m. on April 19th when a friend called my cell phone. She did not know that I was on travel in the US. My friend told me that President Chen had been transferred to Pei-De Hospital. Half awake, I stated it was good because he was not returned to Taipei Prison. My friend reminded me that this was a prison hospital. I then realized that this was the place I was concerned with before because it was merely a local prison in-patient service and it did not have a psychiatric unit. (Later on, I was informed that President Chen was in fact placed in Taichung Prison within a section close to Pei-De Hospital. This section is mainly used for accommodating sex offenders.)
In the last few days, I was hoping to see some protesting statements issued by medical professional associations in Taiwan. However, the only thing reported was the news that President Chen attempted suicide. Dr. Sheng Cheng-Nan did issue a stern statement, but no medical associations followed up in support. On April 21, another good friend of mine, also a medical doctor, called me, audibly upset, to express his deep disappointment over the medical professional associations in Taiwan. Then it occurred to me, even though I am currently traveling abroad, that I should still do my share of duty to protest this heartless and blunt disregard of professional medical opinions by Taiwan's Ministry of Justice (MOJ). Therefore, I would like to call on all medical professionals and associations in Taiwan to stand up and tell MOJ and Ma that I am extremely angry with their disrespect for human life and rule of law.
In a normal discharge protocol, ample time must be allowed for "discharge planning" so that the destined hospital or the family members are fully prepared with clear knowledge of what have been prescribed, drug name, dosage, schedule, and future treatment plans (including dosage adjustment, symptoms to watch for, and possible necessary surgeries or examinations for complications if that ensues). Also, the patient must be given sufficient prescribed medicine to carry along. In this way, we can be assured that any risks of medical incidents and delays could be minimized. This is also an important standards for evaluating the quality of patient safety and medical care as well as the professionalism of a hospital. However, the medical team at Veteran General Hospital (VGH) were caught by surprise by this predawn transfer without any advance notice. (Later on, I was informed that a phone text was sent to the primary doctor for President Chen, Dr. Chou Yuan-Hua, at 5:15 a.m. to inform him about the transfer, but he was not aware of the text because he was asleep at the time. and President Chen was not allowed to bring his prescription.)
Being a member of medical consultants assembled by Control Yuan member, Huang Huang-Hsiung, who started an investigation into the imprisonment conditions of President Chen, I would like to call on all fellow medical professionals in Taiwan that we shall not tolerate this "rogue" behavior of MOJ to toss aside professional medical opinions by Dr. Chou Yuan-Hua of VGH and this "rough" handling of transfer in violation of any normal discharge planning protocols. The medical professional associations should not remain silent. We must tell Ma's government, loud and clear, with our "medical conscience" and "courage", that:
Professional medical opinion should not be disregarded and medical human rights must be protected. Ma's government must handle President Chen's medical care in a transparent and legal way.
By Chi-Wan Lai, M.D.
Chairman, Taiwan Medical Accreditation Council (TMAC)
Chair Professor, Medical Education Promotion Fund
Staff Neurologist, Koo Foundation Sun Yat Sen Cancer Center
125 Lih-Der Rd, Pei-Tou District, Taipei 11259, Taiwan