Team of 40 doctors treating Soeharto

Team of 40 doctors treating Soeharto

Lindsay Murdoch, Jakarta

January 7, 2008

Mr Soeharto at his 86th birthday last year. He is now suffering multiple organ illnesses.

Mr Soeharto at his 86th birthday last year. He is now suffering multiple organ illnesses.
Photo: AP

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A TEAM of 40 doctors has been assembled to try to save the life of former Indonesian dictator Soeharto, who was in a critical condition in hospital last night.

Mr Soeharto's health deteriorated rapidly at the weekend. Doctors said the 86-year-old former five-star general was too weak to survive an immediate operation to insert a pacemaker for his heart, which was failing.

But they said Mr Soeharto, once South-East Asia's most powerful leader, was showing signs of improvement yesterday after undergoing dialysis to remove excess liquid from his body. He remained weak from multiple organ illnesses, doctors said.

Family members have gathered at the bedside of the man who ruled the world's most populous Muslim nation for 32 years, as President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono urged Indonesians to pray for him.

A steady stream of political figures, including Dr Yudhoyono and cabinet ministers, visited Mr Soeharto as he lay barely conscious in South Jakarta's Pertamina Hospital, where he has been treated many times.

State Secretary Hatta Radjasa told reporters that all former presidents enjoyed special privileges including top medical treatment, out of respect for their contributions to the country.

Authorities in Jakarta recently revived charges that Mr Soeharto embezzled $US600 million from charitable foundations he led while president. The charges had lapsed because of his poor health.

At the weekend, House of Representatives Speaker Agung Laksono called for the new civil case to be dropped for humanitarian reasons.

Mr Soeharto has lived as a recluse in his colonial-era house in an exclusive Jakarta suburb since he was toppled by a democracy uprising during the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis.

In recent years he has struggled to overcome a series of health problems, which doctors said had left him with brain damage and some speech loss.

But they said he had never been as critically ill as when he was taken to hospital on Friday.

Analysts in Jakarta said most Indonesians were expected to react in a respectful way to Mr Soeharto's death even though his family had amassed a multibillion-dollar fortune during his rule.

Preparations have been made for Mr Soeharto to be buried next to his wife, Siti Hartinah Soeharto, at the family's mausoleum in the Central Java town of Solo. Mrs Soeharto, who was known as "Madam Tien", died in 1997.


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