Chen Shui-bian’s suicide attempt last week was confirmed by two members of Chen’s volunteer medical team who visited the former president at Taichung Prison. Dr. C.D. Kuo and Dr. Chen Shuen-sheng gave a detailed interview account on Chen’s current situation on April 23. The doctors conducted a physical examination and found a 13-cm red scar around Chen’s neck, confirming his attempted suicide when he learned that he would be moved back to prison. The Ministry of Justice has refused to admit the suicide attempt was linked to the prison transfer.
Chen Shui-bian was the president of the Republic of China in-exile from 2000 to 2008. Chen was detained soon after leaving office and later convicted following a controversial no-jury trial for alleged corruption and was locked in a tiny punishment cell without even a bed at Taipei Prison. Subjected to 24-hour per day fluorescent lights and nearly constant confinement in the tiny cell, Chen was denied requested medical attention. Chen’s health deteriorated from the harsh conditions and he was moved to Veteran’s Hospital to a locked psychiatric unit where he was held for half a year until the sudden pre-dawn move to Taichung Prison last week.
The doctors found that Taichung Prison does not have the medical records of Chen Shui bian. The seven-month medical record of Chen at Veteran’s Hospital in Taipei was not transferred. Chen was not treated as a patient because he was neither discharged from the hospital nor admitted by the prison clinic. No standard medical procedures were carried out.
According to Dr. Kuo, no medical care was provided to Chen Shui-bian in the four days after he was transferred to Taichung Prison. The Taipei Prison staff told Chen that Taichung Veteran’s Hospital would take over his medical care and the deputy director of Taichung hospital had led a team to visit Chen, but it was a mere visit, and no medical checkups were performed.
Taichung Prison has no medical staff for psychiatric care or sleep apnea, two of Chen Shui-bian’s primary problems. Chen has stopped taking any medicine because he thinks that he no longer has a doctor; therefore, he does not know who to listen to.
Dr. Chen Shuen-sheng performed an examination to check Chen Shui-bian's oxygen level in his blood. The doctor found that Chen’s oxygen level fluctuated a lot. The level could reach 98, as a normal person, but dropped to 84 briefly when he was emotional. In general, below 90 is considered a medical emergency. The sleep apnea symptom of Chen is also still significant and presents a constant danger. A sleep test was planned at Veteran’s Hospital but was unable to be carried out because Chen was transferred unexpectedly.
The Taichung Prison clinic does not provide any full-time doctor, pharmacist, or psychiatrist. None of the guards or prisoners who will be watching Chen Shui-bian has medical training. Chen will continue to be kept in isolation, unable to visit or interact with other prisoners.
All of Chen Shui-bian’s doctors, those at Veteran’s Hospital and his volunteer medical team, oppose the prison setting. Chen’s primary hospital doctor, Chou Yuan-hua, who initially reported Chen’s suicide attempt, warned at a Legislative Yuan hearing in early April that return to prison could lead to suicide.