Suharto’s Life in Balance

JAKARTA ~ The condition of critically ill former president Suharto “is not good” and he remains on a ventilator, but doctors are battling to reduce his infection, they said on Thursday.

Suharto, who ruled the world’s fourth most populous nation ruthlessly for three decades, was first admitted to hospital on January 4 and suffered multiple organ failure a week later, when he was hooked up to a ventilator.

His condition has since been fluctuating on an almost daily basis.

“(His condition) remains unstable. Last night it was good, now it is not good,” the head of Suharto’s medical team Mardjo Soebiandono told reporters.

The doctor said the 86-year-old ex-leader still needed the assistance of a ventilator to breathe and showed signs of systemic infection.

“A systemic infection means (the infection) is comprehensive, but we are still laboring to reduce this infection and from the available indicators, there seems to be some success,” Soebiandono said.

An earlier press release from the medical team said Suharto’s heart and lung function had shown no signs of improvement.

Neurologist Jusuf Misbah said Suharto remained conscious.

“On his consciousness, it is still responsive. If we call him there is still (a response). However, we cannot fully assess the condition because he is still under sedation,” Misbah said.

“If we call him loudly, there is a response; his eyes open,” he said.

Doctors said on Wednesday they had begun to try slowly weaning him off the ventilator, which they say puts him at greater risk of contracting infection, but warned his general condition remained unstable.

Suharto, one of Asia’s political giants, stepped down in 1998 amid bloody nationwide riots and mass pro-democracy protests triggered initially by the 1997 Asian economic crisis.

He retreated to his family home in an upmarket Jakarta suburb, rarely venturing outside and managing to avoid criminal trial for massive corruption allegations by citing poor health.

Attempts to bring Suharto to justice for alleged human rights atrocities in East Timor, which he invaded in 1975, and far-flung Aceh and Papua, have also been stymied.

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