A recent interview of Dr. Wen-Je Ko
on becoming President Chen's private doctor

Translated by Jay Tu

Dr. Ko called President Chen's medical case a combination of physical and mental trauma. The re-election by Ma Yin-Jeou was a tipping point for President Chen's psyche, leading to his recent rapid health deterioration. In Taiwanese, the phrase for this medical condition is called "Gien-Si", which means one person is died of being too upset. Dr. Ko stated that he did not like Ma Yin-Jeou and he would slight him or make fun of him. However, some people hate President Chen so much and want him die. For these people, this hatred is stronger than the one toward the Communists, the former enemy of the Nationalists.

Dr. Ko described how he, accidentally, became the private doctor of President Chen. One day, the son of President Chen, Bryan Chen, came to see him with a form similar to power attorney, expressing the desire to hire him as his father's private doctor. Bryan Chen told him that his father was suffering badly. Dr. Ko hesitated and told Bryan that he himself was in hot water these days (Note: this reminds me when President Chen was approached in 1980 to defend the wrongly accused in the Formosa Magazine Persecution). However, Bryan Chen was persistent and Dr. Ko signed the form. This form was then submitted and was promptly rejected by Department of Justice because the name of Wen-Je Ko caused some concerns. Former Vice-President Anette Lu and the minority leader of DPP in congress, Chien-Ming Ko, objected to Department of Justice, arguing that it was Department of Justice which asked President Chen to find his own doctors at the first place. Under pressure, Department of Justice did a semi-180 but would only allow Dr. Ko to visit President Chen as a form of special visit, not as a formal medical checkup. On the day of visit, Dr. Ko, along with Dr. CD Kuo, took a taxi to Taipei Prison without being accompanied by Mr. Ko, the DPP minority leader, because he was busy on the day. Both doctors became the first private medical team to practice in the jail in the ROC history. However, the director of Taipei Prison impressed upon them that they were not conducting a medical checkup but a special visit as a favor to minority leader Ko, and they should not write any medical records regarding this visit. To become President Chen's private doctors, a new form would be sent to them for their signatures by Department of Justice, stated Prison Director.

From the reactions of the prison authority, Dr. Ko thought this was the redux of white terror. Very few doctors in the Hospital of Taiwan University would dare to sign such a form, he thought. The justification for Dr. Ko to be hired as President Chen's private doctor is based on a law, Article 57 of Prison Law of ROC, which allows an inmate to hire his/her own doctor under some special circumstances. And this is probably the first time this law is enacted. After his visit, Dr. Ko issued some statements regarding medical care President Chen received in the jail (Note: he called the care non-existent, see this link: http://www.taiwanenews.com/doc/20120521102.php )

The prison director was not happy with Dr. Ko and banned him from visiting a second time. When President Chen was sent to Cheng Gung Memorial Hospital for checkup on May 23rd, President Chen asked Dr. Ko if he could stay in the hospital for a night because he would like to sleep on a bed for a change. This statement revealed by Dr. Ko brought tears to many supporters of President Chen. The prison director announced that all inmates sleep on the ground, no bed and no exception, not even for an ex-President. However, if President Chen has been treated equally as other inmates, he would be allowed to step out of his small cell for eight hours a day to work in a factory, to fix some streets, or even to tend a garden. But, no, President Chen is denied this very right because of safety concerns. The prison director declared "No, we cannot promise his safety if he is allowed to work in a factory."

As for the Acid Reflux (GERD) symptom of President Chen, it is because he has been forced to write on the floor in the last four years. His cell is too small to have a desk and a chair, or a bed. Dr. Ko asked the prison director if he could allow a desk and a chair to relieve the GERD symptom. The director offered to put a hinged board on the wall, which could be folded up without taking up space when not used. However, it is impossible for President Chen to use it because he would have to sit on the ground and slouch over, causing more discomfort. (Note that it has been reported two days ago, President Chen was offered a small folding desk but its use was limited to one hour a day.) Dr. Ko did not want to argue more about this desk issue as he felt that President Chen has enjoyed a privilege to own a board on the wall for writing.

However, is it a real privilege? Why President Chen is not allowed to work in a factory and is trapped in his cell, essentially as a solitary confinement, a treatment which is a lot worse than those of other inmates? Dr. Ko wondered. It is not right for Taiwan, a so called democratic country, founded under the principle of human rights, to let all its inmates sleep on the ground. Dr. Ko told his students that from the case of President Chen, he discovered a higher meaning of being a doctor.

When President Chen saw Dr. Ko the first time, he held Dr. Ko's hands, nearly broke down in tears. However, when he spotted the prison director, President Chen instantly changed to become tough and argued for his rights to hire Dr. Ko. For the first time, Dr. Ko witnessed a drastic change in a person in such a short time. Why? Once, the minority leader Ko asked Dr. Ko if President Chen was really sick. "He still acts like a dragon or a tiger (literally). Is he really sick or pretending to be sick?" asked minority leader Ko. Dr. Ko thinks he knew the answer as soon as he witnessed the drastic switch of personality of President Chen. Yes, he has been acting but acts to appear dignified as one would expect from a two-term Taiwanese President. In fact, he is already broke inside. When visited by others, he needs to act as a president because most of them were his subordinates in the past. However, in front of Dr. Ko, he is a patient, a normal person, with his true condition revealed. Dr. Ko again realized the enormous privilege and responsibility he is carrying as a medical doctor. He is entrusted with an entry into the soul of a human being, and an important one, if not a great one.

To him, it becomes clear why President Chen is sick. It is a no brainer. In the past, President Chen enjoyed a large entourage but now he is trapped in a small cell with no bed, no chair, and no desk. He is forced to write on the floor, which is damp because water seeps through when it rains (his cell is on the first floor, the worst floor of the whole maximum security building). It is like sleeping in a water prison. With the re-election of Ma Yin-Jeou, there is no ending in sight of his situation. Understandably, his psyche broke and his health rapidly deteriorated.

To Dr. Ko, President Chen's medical condition is a combination of physical and mental illness. In Taiwanese, it is called "Gien-Si" or "upset to death, literally", and one can die this way without obvious symptoms. In medical terms, it is called "Hyperventilation" or "Overbreathing" (Note: at the end of this article, see a quote from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003071.htm on the symptoms and causes of hyperventilation). Due to overbreathing, the CO2 level in the blood can drop too low, causing the PH value of the body to change, which in turn can cause symptoms of short of breath, chest pain, or even seizure. This was why President Chen once almost fainted when using his Japanese style toilet.

Dr. Ko also came to realize why President Chen could not be treated properly in jail, other than the illness causing environment. One reason is that there is an unbalance in the doctor and patient relationship. The prison doctors are not willing to challenge President Chen to tell him the truth. They considered President Chen suffering from depression; therefore, they presribed him Ativan, an anti-depression drug, but they were afraid to tell him so. For over 14 months, President Chen took Ativan unknowingly but eventually, he noticed that his mental sharpness had dropped significantly. Once he realized that he was prescribed Ativan without his consent, he was angry with these prison doctors from Tao-Yuan General Hospital. He no longer trusted them and refused to be seen by them. After being subject to four years of solitary confinement, one could develop victim syndrome. He does not know whom to trust. “In front of me, he trusted me enough to reveal his true self because I dared to yell at him.” Dr. Ko said. "I told him that he had mental problems. Reluctantly, he agreed to be seen by a psychiatrist." "Imagine how would a prison doctor tell a president that he was a cuckoo." Put yourself in his shoes, if you have been tortured and are not allowed to confide anybody with your suffering, what would become of you. To Dr. Ko, President Chen survived this long due to his strong will but how much longer can he keep it up if his imprisonment condition is not improved? Psychologically, how can you convince President Chen to accept his imprisonment as a justified punishment? How can he accept the sentence he was given in view of double standards and the irregularities in his trial procedures, such as switching out legally appointed judges, coercing witnesses to testify against him, jailing him without indictments, perjuries by witnesses without penalites, and biased judicial discretion (Note: see the article by Judge Huang, http://www.taiwanenews.com/doc/20120416101.php ). President Chen’s case has become a political issue, not merely a legal case. At the end, Dr. Ko revealed a conversation he had with President Chen. When he asked if President Chen could undress so that he could examine his private area, “Go ahead. I have been peeped at for four years.” President Chen declared. President Chen has no privacy because his cell is monitored through a surveillance camera 24 hours a day. There is no window, only an opening with bars. “Why am I helping him?” “Because I don’t want Taiwan to be viewed as a country with no heart and no justice”, explained Dr. Ko. “There is a difference between sin and crime.” And “The case of President Chen must be resolved because legally it is too marred to be fair.”

Quote on hyperventilation:
Your doctor will determine the cause of your hyperventilation. Rapid breathing may be a medical emergency -- unless you have experienced this before and have been reassured by your doctor that your hyperventilation can be self treated.

Often, panic and hyperventilation become a vicious cycle. Panic leads to rapid breathing, and breathing rapidly can make you feel panicked.

If you frequently overbreathe, you may have hyperventilation syndrome that is triggered by emotions of stress, anxiety, depression, or anger. Occasional hyperventilation from panic is generally related to a specific fear or phobia, such as a fear of heights, dying, or closed-in spaces (claustrophobia).

If you have hyperventilation syndrome, you might not be aware you are breathing fast. However, you will be aware of having many of the other symptoms, including:
•Chest pain
•Dry mouth
•Muscle spasms in hands and feet
•Numbness and tingling in the arms or around the mouth
•Shortness of breath
•Sleep disturbances


  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Bleeding
  • Cardiac disease, such as congestive heart failure or heart attack
  • Drugs (such as an aspirin overdose)
  • Infection such as pneumonia or sepsis
  • Ketoacidosis and similar medical conditions
  • Lung disease such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or pulmonary embolism
  • Panic attack
  • Pregnancy
  • Severe pain
  • Situations where there is a psychological advantage in having a sudden, dramatic illness (for example, somatization disorder)
  • Stimulant use
  • Stress
  • 「凝死驗無傷」 柯文哲獄中醫扁自敘

    新頭殼 newtalk 2012.06.15 / ◎ 莊豐嘉/專訪







    我想,這簡直是白色恐怖,因為有幾個台大醫生敢簽名? 難怪陳致中要來找我。


    上次去長庚醫院看阿扁,他說了一句會讓綠營支持者人掉淚的話。他問我:「可以在長庚住一天嗎? 」



    阿扁為什麼有胃食道逆流? 因為他睡在1.3坪的地方,沒有桌子和椅子,趴在地上寫字,我就問典獄長給他個桌子椅子。






    我要去看阿扁時,柯建銘問我:「我看阿扁生龍活虎,怎會有病呢 ? 到底是真病還是假病 ? 」 我在看到阿扁的一霎那才知道為什麼。因為別人去看他,都是他的部下,他一定要裝出台灣總統的樣子,所以是戴上面具,可是私底下他已經在崩潰了。因此我才知道,作為醫生的價值,在我面前他是病人,在別人面前他是長官。


    為什麼最近情況會突然變差? 說實話,就是因為馬英九當選。




    為什麼阿扁在獄中會醫不好? 我後來知道一個大道理,就是大人物沒辦法給小醫生去看。





    可是他就被關到 breakdown,崩潰。更慘的是,他在別人面前又必須戴上面具。因為我從來沒看過那樣的陳水扁。


    我為什麼要幫他 ? 因為我不希望台灣被人家認為是一個無情無義的國家,人情冷暖啊。

    扁案已經變成台灣無解的題目。因為他覺得受到不公平待遇,不公平審判。例如為什麼要換法官,為什麼要先押後審 ? 檢察官還去教唆證人作偽證,還是證人出來講,而且後來都沒事。阿扁怎麼會服氣! 如果有罪,該怎麼判就怎麼判嘛,不要做那些動作,變成政治事件,永遠都沒辦法化解。




    扁案部分,sin 和 crime 不一樣,道德有罪和法律有罪是不一樣。所以我主張結束扁案,因為扁案已經成為一個無法結案的案。