Press Statement

Breach of the Lockup Rules, poor medical attention and the death of Thanaseelan

27 February 2017

Today, a post-mortem was conducted on the body of Thanaseelan a/l Muniandy, 43, at the Sungai Buloh Hospital. He was arrested and detained on 22 February and died in the custody of the Bukit Sentosa Police Station, Bukit Beruntung on 25 February at 1.50 am. The cause of death was stated to be “septicaemia due to suppurative peritonitis as a consequence of perforated gastric ulcer.”

The pathologists who conducted the post-mortem briefed the family members and lawyers on what they found and the likely cause of death. According to the pathologists – due to the serious gastric, ulcer, perforation and infection, the deceased would have been in considerable pain for at least a week prior to his death. Further, he would have been extremely weak and unable to eat due to his condition.

It is clear from the Lockup Rules the police must care for the wellbeing of all detainees including informing the medical authorities of any illnesses or injuries affecting detainees. Further, the Lockup Rules provide for situations where a detainee may not be fit to be further detained for example, if the person is seriously ill and ought to be admitted for medical treatment as in this particular case.

Since the medical evidence showed that Thanaseelan would have been in considerable pain, why were the police still keeping him in their lockup? He should have been rushed to the hospital immediately. The police must accept responsibility for his death as it was entirely preventable.

Further, the family members were not informed of the seriousness of his condition and they were only alerted of some emergency, claiming that he was ill when in fact he was already dead. This is another breach of the Lockup Rules.

Questions must further be asked as to why the deceased was not properly diagnosed on the seriousness of his condition and admitted into the Kuala Kubu Baru Hospital on 24 February where he was allegedly brought to receive treatment. Instead, he was allegedly only prescribed with antacid for his gastric.

We call upon the Ministry of Health and all hospitals to treat all detainees with the same professional care and attention as they would with any other patients. Remand suspects should not be treated as lesser human beings deserving a lesser level of medical treatment just because they are under police custody. In fact, due to the prevalence of custodial deaths and the vulnerable conditions of detainees, the medical authorities ought to pay extra care and attention to all detainees who are brought for treatment.

Released by:
Eric Paulsen and Melissa Sasidaran
Lawyers for the deceased family members