Cancer patient sent to mental facility
Can a prisoner who is reported to have developed cancer be taken from the one-person prison ward in hospital and sent back to jail?
It is possible in Turkey. When you ask the officials, you can hear several explanations about legislation, the reports of the Forensic Medicine Institute and how the system works.
One of the arrested defendants of the Ergenekon case, former President of İnönü University Professor Fatih Hilmioğlu, was diagnosed with the onset of liver cancer at the end of 2010 (Dec. 22). Despite this, he was sent to Silivri Prison three months later (March 8, 2011).
Before his transfer, Hilmioğlu was at the Cerrahpaşa Medical Faculty Hospital’s prison ward, guarded by gendarmerie, receiving treatment for cirrhosis. When you ask his brother and lawyer Hayati Hilmioğlu, the reply he received from Silivri Prison officials on why he was transferred from Cerrahpaşa is that a letter was sent to them from the Justice Ministry’s General Directorate of Prisons and Detention Houses. When I asked the lawyer, “Have you seen this letter?” he answered, “No, but the second director of the prison read it to me.”
When I called a top executive in the Justice Ministry and conveyed the situation to him, he replied to me after investigating the situation, “There is definitely no question of such a letter having been sent from the ministry. The ministry does not have such a power.”
The explanation I collected from ministry contacts are also to that effect: At that time, upon media reports that some arrested defendants were being arbitrarily held at universities, the Office of the Chief Prosecutor at Silivri handled the subject. He asked for the health reports of Hilmioðlu from Cerrahpaşa, before passing them on to the State Hospital in Silivri and asking them whether his treatment could be conducted there. When the hospital responded positively, Hilmioğlu’s transfer to Silivri Prison occurred.
This transfer procedure was based on a report of the General Assembly of the Forensic Medicine Institute, dated Jan. 28, 2010: “He can stay in prison on condition that every two months his tests are conducted at a university hospital’s hepatology department.” The problem here is this: The report of the Forensic Medicine Institute came about one year before Hilmioğlu was diagnosed with cancer; it is therefore out of the question that it was relevant to the latest situation. Secondly, the Forensic Medicine Institute also directed the patient to a university hospital, not a regular state hospital.
Actually, in the current state of affairs, the seriousness of Hilmioðlu’s health situation has left behind all of these debates. With other complications that emerged later, Hilmioðlu’s health, as official reports confirm, is as follows:
1) He is a cirrhosis patient.
2) He has been diagnosed with the onset of liver cancer, (however, he has not had a biopsy for two years.)
3) He is also faced with a chronic kidney problem.
4) He has developed diabetes.
5) He has esophagus varicoses that may lead to lethal bleeding.
6) After the death of his son in a traffic accident last October, he is suffering from severe depression.
One of the dimensions of the problem is that these diseases are ones that negatively affect each other. For example, because of the cirrhosis illness, antidepressant medication needed for his depression treatment cannot be given to him. A majority of the doctors agree that he has to be treated in a multi-disciplinary university hospital, but Hilmioðlu is being held in a two-person ward at Silivri Prison.
All of these health findings have not affected the stance of the Specially Authorized 13th Criminal Court’s panel of judges, trying the Ergenekon case. The court is throwing the ball to the Forensic Medicine Institute, although there are practices of the Supreme Court of Appeals that allow the court to reach a verdict independent of the Institute.
More importantly, the third judicial package that went into effect last July, with its judicial control system (parole), already equips judges with a wide discretion for trying without arrest.
Meanwhile, even though his lawyers have sent the findings of the onset of cancer to the Forensic Medicine Institute, the fact that the Institute has not felt the need to review its former report and to update it is a very problematic situation.
In the meantime, there was another aspect that drew my attention while I was reviewing the file. In the report issued for Hilmioğlu by the Bakırköy Sadi Konuk Research Hospital on Jan. 9, 2013, the following is written: “It is advised that a follow up and check-up is done after two months in an advanced center which has hepatology [liver], nephrology [kidney], endocrinology [diabetes] departments. It is also recommended that an assessment be done at the Cerrahpaşa Medical Faculty, where he is monitored for his severe depression.”
When this report was referred to the Silivri State Hospital, where do you suppose Hilmioğlu was referred to on Jan. 15, 2013? To the Bakırköy Psychiatric Hospital.
In their one sentence transfer letter dated Jan. 15, 2013, there is no reference to any of Hilmioğlu’s other health problems. He has rejected going to Bakırköy.
In summary, in the Turkey of 2013 we have a mentality that sends a cancer patient to a mental institution.
The conduct against Hilmioğlu is an open violation of the second article of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states: “Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law.”
It should not surprise anybody that an application to the European Court of Human Rights on the case of Hilmioğlu will end in a verdict against Turkey.
Sedat Ergin is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published on Feb. 13. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.