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The Ignored Issue of Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim's Right to Medical Treatment.

Political Education Unit of the Institute for Policy Research (UPP-IKD)

The Tun Daim fiasco, Chinese Press take-over and the imminent UMNO General Assembly have induced the media
into a hive of activity recently. Nonetheless, one issue remains sidelined despite the enormity of its significance. Little has been done about Anwar Ibrahim (DSAI)'s worsening spinal condition despite repeated claims to his right of his choice of medical
treatment. The bold statement released by the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) on 31st May 2001 concerning this issue presents a light at the end of the tunnel as it is perceived as a landmark in Malaysia's long struggle for greater democracy and human rights.

Many salient points were highlighted in the statement by SUHAKAM. One of these was the existence of a law that provides prisoners the chance to travel overseas under the discretion of the DG of Prisons. Additionally, it is a fact that DSAI is liable for
bail and thus under ordinary circumstances would be able to seek medical treatment overseas. Most importantly, is SUHAKAM's acknowledgement that from the medical, legal and human rights perspectives there should be no question that DSAI be allowed to choose his preferred medical treatment.

However, in spite of all this, the DG of Prisons has recently rejected DSAI's application to be released from prison to seek medical treatment. His excuse does not hold water and cannot be bought by the public. This rejection has crushed the hopes of
many Malaysians as it has serious implications for the future of our nation in terms of greater executive accountability.

Since DSAI was sent back to prison one month ago while still suffering from a serious spinal injury, the treatment he has received there has been appalling to say the least. Because of his worsening back pain and deteriorating health, regular medical check-ups are increasingly necessary. Unfortunately, contrary to arrangements agreed upon prior to his return to prison, DSAI has not been examined by any of the doctors that comprise the panel appointed to care for him on a regular basis. This is evidence that the promises from relevant authorities for adequate care and treatment were merely lip service. The only care
he receives is daily visits by a hospital assistant.

DSAI has not undergone any physiotherapy either, although this was agreed to as part of his conservative treatment. Equipment purchased for this purpose has not been assembled in Sungai Buloh Prison for the full conservative treatment to be
administered. Considering doctors have pronounced DSAI's condition as critical and liable to lapse into emergency at any time, this behavior is hardly befitting of the medical profession. To top it all off, DSAI is under excruciating pain and relieved only
by strong painkillers which have brought about noticeable side effects of water and sodium retention and swelling of his fingers. This was only found out when doctors examined him for the first time since his return to prison, two days before the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) visited him.

The disappointing decision made by the DG of Prisons to reject DSAI's application is reprehensible. The DG should base his decision on SUHAKAM's findings and not be pressured politically into making predisposed judgements. The paramount consideration should be DSAI's health and not trivial, technical issues. His decision directly contradicts the recommendations by
SUHAKAM and clearly overrides the bigger human rights issue i.e. the right to treatment of choice of an ailing patient.

DSAI's life very much depends on the developments in the next few weeks. He is at great risk of paralysis merely for standing up for his rights. It is hoped that the plight of DSAI will not be taken lightly considering SUHAKAM has come up with a strong
statement regarding this matter.

In the light of the DG's rejection of his application, DSAI has proceeded to take court action, which will inevitably prolong the wait for urgent spinal surgery. But who can blame him, seeing as his basic rights have been conveniently and consistently denied.