Health of Suharto Deteriorates, Infection Spreads
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Health of Suharto Deteriorates, Infection Spreads

By Niniek Karmini/AP Writer/Jakarta Wednesday, January 23, 2008


The health of former Indonesian dictator Suharto deteriorated Wednesday, with a potentially lethal infection spreading through his body, his doctors said.

Suharto, 86, who brutally ruled the nation for 32 years until being toppled a decade ago by a pro-democracy uprising, has developed digestive trouble and severe pneumonia, said Dr. Joko Raharjo, a member of the presidential medical team.

"We are trying hard to find and detect the bacteria and treat him with proper antibiotics, but we cannot guarantee it will be successful," he told reporters. "We are not happy with his condition today."

Suharto, who was rushed to a hospital with anemia and a dangerously low heart rate Jan. 4, has suffered multiple organ failure and is on a ventilator, dialysis machine and is being fed through a tube.

"There are new infections in several parts of his body," said Dr. Marjo Subiandono. "The increased sepsis is threatening his life."

A week after being admitted to the Pertamina Hospital in the capital, Jakarta, his heart briefly stopped and doctors said privately he was on the verge of death. Preparations began a state funeral.

Last weekend doctors were optimistic, saying he was staging an "amazing recovery," had spoken, eaten and moved his hands.

But on Wednesday, his condition took a turn for the worse again and doctors said tests revealed worsening sepsis—a "systemic infection" of the blood—and warned that Suharto's age and weak immune system were working against him.

Sepsis is particularly dangerous for the elderly and patients in critical condition.

Doctors also said fluid was accumulating in his lungs.

"His condition is worse this morning because fluid is accumulating in his lungs and the pneumonia has spread to both lungs," said another physician, Dr. Hadiarto Mangunnegoro.

Suharto led a regime widely regarded as one of the 20th century's most brutal and corrupt for 32 years until he was toppled in May 1998 amid massive pro-democracy street protests. Since then, he has lived a reclusive life in a comfortable villa in downtown Jakarta.

He was admitted to the hospital several times in recent years after suffering intestinal bleeding and strokes that impaired his speech.

Between 300,000 and 800,000 alleged communist sympathizers were killed during his rise to power from 1965 to 1968, a spasm of violence led by the Indonesian army and conservative Muslim groups.

His troops killed another 300,000 in military operations against independence movements in Papua, Aceh and East Timor, while hundreds of thousands of others were jailed without trial or disappeared. No one has been punished over the killings.

Transparency International has said Suharto and his family amassed billions of dollars in stolen state funds, an allegation he has denied.

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