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Inmate with Cancer Dies due to Compassionate Release Rejection, CY Urges Care for Inmate Rights in Medical Care

  • PostDate:2020-03-24

The family of an inmate surnamed Chan, sentenced to nine months imprisonment from March 31, 2015, for an offense against traffic safety due to unsafe driving, filed twice for compassionate release for the man as he was suffering unbearable pain from cancer. Prior to his imprisonment, Chan had undergone an esophagectomy and colon reconstruction surgery as treatment for esophageal cancer. However, applications were rejected by the Agency of Corrections and Taipei Prison. Chan later fell ill, suffering a severe stomach ache, even dropping ten kilograms. Taipei Prison finally applied to the Agency of Corrections for compassionate release, but this too was turned down. On July 1, Chan was in critical condition and was secured to Tao Yuan General Hospital for treatment. While in hospital, Chan was diagnosed with metastases to liver, para-aortic lymph node, and possibly pleura, indicating a terminal condition. The agency permitted compassionate release on July 17 and Chan was transferred to Taipei Veterans General Hospital, dying on July 25.

After an investigation conducted by the Control Yuan, it was found that Chan’s family had petitioned for release to the agency several times when Chan’s condition had deteriorated. However, every petition was rejected. Furthermore, when Chan was secured to the hospital on May 6, the doctor wrote down on the Taipei Prison Inmates Compassionate Release Record the recommendation that Chan return to Taipei Veterans General Hospital for medical treatment. On June 5, it was recorded that the doctor suggested compassionate release when Chan was secured to the hospital again. These two records make it apparent that Chan’s cancer had progressed to a terminal stage and that he was unable to receive appropriate medical treatment in the prison. However, the prison and the agency both ignored the doctors’ professional advice, opting instead to give Chan painkillers for his stomach ache, leading to Chan being unable to receive appropriate treatment and dying after less than four months of imprisonment. This is an apparent violation of the international convention that all persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.

Compassionate release is not just a systemic mechanism, but a means for inmates to exercise their right to immediate medical treatment. After the investigation by the CY, the agency revised the application forms and procedures for compassionate release and securing of inmates to hospital. Prior to the revision, the prison passively took receipt of applications, but now it will actively assist inmates in completing the administrative procedure, as well as monitoring the process. Additionally, should doctors think it necessary, the prison shall write to other hospitals for medical records in accordance with Articles 36 and 40 of the Administration Procedure Act and avoid postponing compassionate release due to waiting to receive inmate’s records from their families. The Control Yuan will continue to pay constant attention to the related issues, hoping to improve the protection of the medical rights of inmates and to urge prisons to make their medical treatment systems more thorough.