Breach of Prison Act & denial of medical treatment caused the death of Proosothaman
28 May 2019
Yesterday, a post-mortem was conducted on the body of Proosothaman a/l Marimuthu at the Sungai Buloh Hospital. The deceased, a 25-year-old male was a remand prisoner at Sungai Buloh Prison since December 2018 when he was taken ill and brought to the Sungai Buloh Hospital on 21 May 2019. However, he died on 25 May 2019. The cause of death was stated to be “multiple organ failure due to disseminated tuberculosis”.
According to the deceased’s family members who regularly visited him in prison, during their last visit on 5 May 2019, he had complained of serious fever, stomach ache and diarrhoea and had difficulty walking due to the intense pain. The deceased informed his family that he was only provided with Panadol for his pain.
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. By then the disease had spread throughout his body, causing multiple organ failure.
Why was the deceased not accorded timely and proper medical treatment when he first showed signs of prolonged or serious illness and was only brought to the hospital a few days prior to his death?
As tuberculosis is a highly infectious disease and Proosothaman was only diagnosed with the illness after his admission to the hospital, this raises serious questions on whether the proper medical and quarantine procedures were implemented by the Sungai Buloh Prison authorities as the deceased would have mingled freely with other prisoners and wardens. 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.
Further, the family members were not informed of the seriousness of his condition and that he had been admitted to the Sungai Buloh Hospital, and they were only alerted by a fellow patient at the hospital.
All prisoners must not be treated as lesser deserving human beings and deprived of proper medical treatment just because they are prisoners. The Home Ministry and the Prisons Department must accept responsibility for Proosothaman’s death as it was entirely preventable.
The Prisons Department must take the wellbeing of all prisoners seriously, including informing the medical authorities and family members of any illnesses or injuries affecting prisoners, and not wait until the last moments when it is already too late.
This is a serious public health issue which must be dealt with by the Ministry of Health and the Prisons Department as there is now a risk of exposure to other prisoners, prison wardens and even members of the public who have come in contact with them. 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.
We call upon the police to launch an immediate investigation into this death which has elements of criminal negligence causing death.
The Pakatan Harapan government must also take this issue seriously in line with their commitment to prevent all custodial deaths.
Lawyers for Liberty