Fri, 15 Sep 2000

IDI legal advisor defends members' independence

JAKARTA (JP): The Indonesian Medical Association (IDI) defended on Thursday the independence of its members examining whether former president Soeharto is fit to stand trial for corruption.

"Doctors are independent and they are professionals. They must be free from any coercive offers when they perform their duties.

"Therefore they must be judged based on their competence and not only on the background of their institutions," IDI's legal advisor and counseling and defense board chief Herkutanto told The Jakarta Post.

On Thursday, a court ordered the attorney in Soeharto's case to form a team of doctors consisting of representatives of IDI, the health and social welfare ministry and three state universities.

"All of these doctors are members of IDI. So why does IDI have to be included?

"Therefore we suggest two options, namely IDI be removed from the team or IDI stays, but as its coordinator. Why? Because our organization represents doctors in every university and institution in the country," he said.

IDI's credibility is at stake in the handling of the Soeharto case, he said.

"We do not want any parties to try to ruin the credibility of doctors by creating the false impression that some of us working for a certain interest in this case."

Herkutanto also criticized the ignorance of people, including judges and prosecutors, of the difference between the diagnostic and administrative roles of doctors.

"It will be useless to form this (new) team of doctors or any other such team if people do not understand the distinction between the two terms and their functions," he said.

The diagnostic physicians in this case are those in the Attorney General Office-appointed team, while the administrative ones make up Soeharto's private team, he explained.

"Diagnostic doctors are the ones who determine whether a person is fit to engage in a certain activity. In this case, whether Soeharto is fit to stand trial.

"Administrative doctors are the ones who treat the patient and are responsible for his recuperation. These physicians only deal with Soeharto's health and they can't become members of the diagnostic team to anticipate a possible conflict of interest. The same rule goes for the diagnostic doctors," he said.

IDI believes that the both teams of doctors had performed their jobs professionally, he said.

He said the problem lay in the fact that people and the court handling Soeharto's case were confusing and comparing the competence of the two teams and blaming the doctors.

"The two cannot be compared as they used different measures in their jobs, even though they may come up with similar results.

"I think the new diagnostic team will come up with more or less the same conclusions as the previous teams. And we fear that if the court feels that its answers are unsatisfactory, there will be another team. This will further spoil IDI's image."

It seems that the trial is trying to force the doctors, who are supposed to give a judgment on Soeharto's ability to stand trial, and get them to clearing him to stand trial, he said.

"Again, competence to stand trial is determined by the legal practitioners and not the doctors," he said.

IDI chairman Merdias Almatsier said that intensive medical examinations must be periodically carried out on Soeharto to reveal the actual state of his health.

"Soeharto's health report was issued in March and now almost six months have gone by. His condition may fluctuate. So the doctors must come up with the latest reports," he said. (edt)