Can a prisoner demand to be treated in private healthcare facility? Lawyers explain

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 27 — Talk about the alleged privileges accorded to convicted ex-prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in Kajang Prison continues despite the Prisons Department’s denials.

Najib, who was also reported to have suffered from some health issues, also received treatment at the Cheras Rehabilitation Hospital, after being referred there by the Kuala Lumpur Hospital (HKL).

On September 12, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob also ordered the Ministry of Health (MoH) to make sure he gets proper treatment, following claims of the latter’s deteriorating health.

So, can a prisoner request for specific healthcare or provider to treat their ailments?

Absolutely not!

“According to Section 37(1) of the Prison Act 1995, a prisoner can only be treated at a government hospital. Not a private hospital.

“So he or she cannot make such demands... I don’t think there are exemptions provided under the law to allow prisoners to seek treatment at a private hospital,” lawyer Haziq Abdul Aziz said, adding that in the case of Najib, both the HKL and Cheras Rehabilitation Hospital are government entities.

What happens when a prisoner falls ill? “In the prison itself, there’s a health clinic to administer treatment.

Based on Rule 234 (Prison Regulations), a medical officer can give recommendations to the supervising officer of any treatment or facilities needed to treat the condition of a prisoner,” he added.

Lawyer Dinesh Muthal also concurred with Haziq.

“They have a clinic inside the prison. A basic care clinic for cases such as fever, flu and others. That particular clinic handles it. Then, in the case of a bigger situation in case of injuries and prolonged fever and very bad skin rash for example, the prisoner will be sent to the nearest government hospital. It is always a government hospital.

“Sometimes when the client tells us they are not well, their condition is so bad and that the medicine in the clinic is not helping, we would usually write to the prison to ask that he or she be sent to hospital. Usually for Selangor or Kuala Lumpur, it would be the Sungai Buloh Hospital or Kajang Hospital.

“Private doctors cannot come to see the prisoner and the prisoner cannot make such a request too, because the person is undergoing punishment so they cannot be given privileges like any free man outside.

“That defeats the purpose of jailing somebody and cutting them off from the privileges and connection with the outside world,” Dinesh said, adding that it is up to the administering doctor to decide on the course of treatment and medication.

Section 37(1) of the Prison Act reads: “In case of serious illness of a prisoner confined in a prison in which there are inadequate facilities for the treatment of that prisoner, the officer-in-charge may, on the certificate of a medical officer, make an order for the removal of the prisoner to a government hospital.” Meanwhile, Section 37(2) states that a prisoner removed under subsection (1) is based on the opinion of the medical officer of the hospital.

The Act does not mention special cases which can necessitate treatment at the prisoner’s healthcare facility of choice.

“Private doctors cannot come into prison citing their credibility of any sort. No such thing,” Dinesh said, adding that any need for further medical opinions can only be assessed by the government hospital’s doctors assigned to treat prisoners.

He added that based on his experience and research, no prisoners have to date been brought for treatment at any private medical facility.