Too slow, rights group tells authorities after prisoner dies of TB

Lawyers for Liberty says prisoners should not be deprived of proper medical treatment simply because they are prisoners.

PETALING JAYA: Rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) today questioned the lack of proper medical treatment for a remand prisoner at the Sungai Buloh prison who died on May 25, just days after being diagnosed with tuberculosis.

LFL said Proosothaman Marimuthu, who had been remanded at the prison since December last year, was taken ill and brought to the Sungai Buloh Hospital on May 21. His cause of death was said to be “multiple organ failure due to disseminated tuberculosis”.

“The pathologists who conducted the post-mortem briefed the family members and lawyer that the deceased would have shown gradual symptoms of tuberculosis such as prolonged coughing, coughing with blood, fever, loss of weight and appetite.

“Further, the deceased would have contracted tuberculosis for a few months prior to his death. However, the deceased was only diagnosed with tuberculosis after he was admitted to the Sungai Buloh Hospital,” Melissa Sasidaran, who represents Proosothaman’s family, said in a statement.

She asked why Proosothaman, 25, had not been given proper and timely medical treatment when he first showed signs of tuberculosis. Instead, she said, he was only brought to the hospital a few days before his death.

Noting that tuberculosis is a highly infectious disease, she also questioned whether proper medical and quarantine procedures were followed by the prison authorities.

“Such lapses are in breach of the Prison Act 1995 and the Prisons Regulations 2000 that require seriously ill prisoners to be admitted to hospital and for prisoners with contagious diseases to be treated and quarantined so as to prevent the spread of the disease,” she said.

She added that Proosothaman’s family members, who regularly visited him in prison, were not informed of the gravity of his condition or that he had been admitted to hospital.

According to them, she said, during their last visit on May 5, Proosothaman had complained of fever, stomachache and diarrhoea, and had had difficulty walking due to the intense pain. He also told them that he was only given Panadol for the pain.

“Prisoners must not be treated as lesser deserving human beings and deprived of proper medical treatment just because they are prisoners,” she said, adding that the home ministry and Prisons Department should accept responsibility for Proosothaman’s death which she said was “entirely preventable”.

She also urged the police to launch an immediate investigation into his death, saying there are elements of criminal negligence leading to death.

“A prison detention should not become a death sentence by a deadly disease due to apathy, negligence or a ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude by the Prisons Department,” she said.