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Taiwan ex-president faces sleep apnea surgery
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2013-12-13 05:33 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Former President Chen Shui-bian will undergo surgery at the Taichung Veterans General Hospital Saturday to cure his sleep apnea, his office announced.

Chen is spending a 20-year prison sentence for corruption at the Taichung Prison’s Pei Teh Hospital because of his precarious health condition.

Sleep apnea includes sudden breathing stoppages during sleep, but Chen also suffers from a variety of other ailments including severe depression, cerebral atrophy and incontinence.

Because his breath stops up to 37 times an hour, he finds it impossible to sleep for more than one or two hours each night, his office said. If left untreated, the disease might damage his basic brain and heart functions.

An application to perform surgery was first filed at the beginning of the year when Chen was staying at the Taipei Veterans General Hospital, but because he was moved to Taichung on April 19, the procedure had to start all over again, the former president’s office said. It took another eight months before the application was finally approved.

Chen’s health problems were so serious that he should receive close medical supervision at a more hospitable location, preferably at home, his office said. When his deteriorating medical condition became apparent, an online campaign started to ask the government to give Chen medical parole, but the Ministry of Justice has said he does not fulfill the conditions for such treatment.

Saturday’s sleep apnea treatment will be the third round of surgery Chen has faced since entering prison six years ago.

The Taichung Prison was unwilling to reveal details about the timetable because of safety reasons, but it said any move would only happen with the full approval of Chen, his family and his medical team.

A surgeon from Taipei’s Veterans General was scheduled to perform the surgery Saturday morning, after tests at the prison Friday, reports said.

In June, Chen attempted to hang himself with a towel but was stopped by prison staff.

Chen ruled Taiwan from 2000 to 2008 as the first-ever president from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, which was founded in 1986 during the Martial Law era. He first won amid divisions in the ruling Kuomintang camp in 2000, but he was re-elected by a razor-thin absolute majority four years later. As he left office, he faced numerous allegations of corruption which he rejected as a campaign of political persecution by his successor, President Ma Ying-jeou of the KMT.

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