Indonesia's Suharto stable but on ventilator
Former Indonesian dictator Suharto showed slight signs of improvement, doctors said Saturday, a day after he suffered organ failure and was placed on a ventilator with dangerous signs of infection in his lungs.
"Generally, his condition is better," said the chief presidential doctor, Marjo Subiandono, adding while Suharto remained on a ventilator, antibiotics appeared to be having an effect on his infected lungs.
"He's more aware, responsive."
Suharto's blood pressure was also stable, Subiandono said, though there was some bleeding in the stomach.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, meanwhile, cut short a visit to neighboring Malaysia so he could be at the former strongman's bedside. He was scheduled to arrive at the hospital early Saturday.
Suharto, 86, whose regime was widely regarded as one of the most brutal and corrupt of the 20th century, was hospitalized in critical condition one week ago with anemia and a low heart rate. After initially responding well to a blood transfusion and kidney dialysis, his health sharply deteriorated.
Physicians described his state as "alarming" on Friday, and family members and friends rushed to his bedside, some reciting prayers and verses from the Quran as he started to lose consciousness.
Suharto was ousted in 1998 amid massive student protests and nationwide riots, paving the way for democracy in this predominantly Muslim nation of 235 million people. The retired five-star general withdrew from public life, venturing from his comfortable villa in the capital, Jakarta, only to attend family functions or for medical emergencies.
A series of strokes in recent years have left Suharto with permanent brain damage and impaired speech - keeping him from facing trial.
He has been accused of overseeing a purge of more than a half-million leftist opponents soon after seizing power in a 1965 coup.
Hundreds of thousands more were killed or imprisoned in the decades that followed - crimes for which no one has ever been punished.
Transparency International says Suharto and his family also amassed billions of dollars (euros) in state funds - an allegation he has denied.
Aids said privately that Suharto appeared to be on the verge of death late Friday, and Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari told El-Shinta radio the ventilator was a "last attempt" by doctors to keep him alive.
"I don't think it will help," Supari said, adding she had strongly advised against it.
Family members, however, decided to go ahead, as is their right.
Subiandono said liquid was still building up in Suharto's internal organs.
"This morning the team of doctors will try to improve his general condition by giving him a blood transfusion and medicine to continue fighting the infection in his lungs and to balance his body fluid," he said. (AP)
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