Taiwan family blames conscript's death on delayed assistance

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Military Police Command yesterday said it has formed an investigative committee to probe the death of a conscript after his family accused the military of delaying medical assistance, which they claim led to their son's death.

Family members of Pvt. Chien Chih-lung, a 23-year-old conscript who was training at the Military Police Training Center, accused the military personnel at the centre of ignoring Chien's complaints about his health condition. They say that this negligence ultimately led to his death on Nov. 12 at Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital.

At an emergency press conference at the Ministry of National Defence's (MND) headquarters in Taipei yesterday afternoon, Col. Yang Pao-chung, deputy head of the centre, stressed that the military did everything it could to help Chien.

"We are upset about Chien's death and will help his family to deal with related issues in the aftermath of his death," Yang said.

According to Yang, Chien first went to a hospital in Taipei on Nov. 8 while on leave after feeling unwell. He was diagnosed with parainfluenza and was prescribed medicine.

Chien later returned to the training centre following his leave and gave his superior a doctor's note that recommended three days of sick leave, which was taken at the training centre.

On Nov. 10, however, Chien said he still felt unwell despite finishing the course of medication he had been prescribed so reported to the training centre's medic.

The medical officer on duty that day, 2nd Lt. Chen Tzu-ching, took Chien's body temperature but did not find a fever.

For Chien's parainfluenza symptoms, Chen prescribed medicine similar to that prescribed by the Taipei hospital.

The conscript continued to feel unwell despite the medicine prescribed by the medic, so a superior accompanied Chien to a nearby clinic for a second consultation with a doctor that day.

The medication did not alleviate Chien's symptoms, so the following day, Chien's superior took him to Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital at 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 11 for emergency medical treatment and informed his parents of his condition.

Chien died a day later at 6 p.m. on Nov. 12. of leptospirosis.

According to Col. Ko Chou-yuan of the MND's Medical Affairs Bureau, leptospirosis can be caused by bacteria that affect both humans and animals.

It can cause a wide range of symptoms, some of which may be mistaken for other diseases, including influenza. About 90 per cent of those who catch leptospirosis recover after medical treatment, but 10 to 20 per cent of afflicted patients die.

Yang stressed that the centre is now working closely with medical authorities to determine the origin of the deadly disease that killed Chien.