More than 600 electoral officials dead: democratic celebration or massacre?

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Many election Officers are dead in this year's election, what about the next election? (photo: halloindo.com)

IO, Jakarta – The number of victims in the 2019 Elections include 603 deaths and 3805 ill. This high number pushed doctors to speak out. It is mostly comprised of Election Monitoring Group (Kelompok Pengawas Pemungutan Suara – “KPPS”) members, plus 92 Election Monitoring Committee (Panitia Pengawas Pemilu – “Panwaslu”) members and 22 police officers. The age range of the victims is from 19 to 70 years.

Neurologist Ani Hasibuan is one of the doctors who dared to state that exhaustion is not the primary cause for so many deaths in such a short time. Ani doubted that exhaustion is the cause of death of these KPPS officers. “As a doctor, I find this rather odd from the start. Is this an election or a massacre? How come so many people died? Elections should be a happy event: you are getting a new leader or something? Yet there are deaths,” she said.

She further stated that exhaustion would not cause death, but a loss of consciousness at most. According to her, death might occur if the victim has previously contracted other illness, such as a heart condition. “I have never seen death by exhaustion; I have been a doctor for 22 years. I have never seen a COD of exhaustion. If there is heart condition at the start, okay, then they work hard, force their bodies, then their hearts get triggered, that’s death because of heart condition then, not because of exhaustion,” she said.

Ani visited the victims’ families in order to analyze their deaths. “I visited the families of 3 victims. They say that these officials were fine. The day after Elections, they started to get a headache, nauseated, they vomited, then died 2 days later. The second official was just sticking something hot plaster at night, then went home with complaints of stomach ache in the morning. They then went to the bathroom, then went to bed when their business was finished, and finally died before they had the chance to be hospitalized. On 18 April, the third official complained of a stomach ache and went to the hospital. They were hospitalized in the ICCU for 4 days, then died,” she said.

Similar to Ani, her colleague Dr. Taufan stated in his Twitter that a death preceded by vomiting blood is not related to exhaustion. He suspected that something else triggered the deaths of these 603 electoral official, the highest number of deaths throughout history. “Such vomiting of blood is triggered by substances that irritate the stomach’s mucous lining, such as aspirin etc. These substances will then cause internal bleeding in the stomach,” he said in his account, @DrTaufan1.

Separately, Indonesia’s Association of Physicians (Ikatan Dokter Indonesia – “IDI”) General Chairman Dr. Daeng M Faqih stated the same thing: exhaustion is not the direct cause of sudden death, but it may become a trigger or a worsening of the condition that is the true cause of death. “In both scientific and humanitarian perspective, the causes of sudden deaths in such large number, especially within such a short period, should be researched and studied seriously, independently, and scientifically,” he said in the summary of public discussion themed “Reviewing the Causes of Sudden Death of Electoral Officials from a Scientific Perspective” held in the Hall of PB lDl on Monday (13/05/2019).

IDI believes that the use of allo anamnesa (medical history taking from others close to the victim) approach to determine the cause of the 2019 electoral officers’ deaths is invalid, especially in view of the Joint Regulation of the Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Health No. 1512A10 and No. 162/MenkeslPBhl2Al0, which are meant more as an administrative approach when recording demographic information. It should not be used to discover the cause of serial and numerous deaths, which implies many possible causes.

Similarly, with Dr. Daeng M Faqih, the Chairman of the North Sumatra Islamic University’s Medical Profession Study Program, Dr. Umar Zein, stated that it is impossible for exhaustion to be a cause of death. “Exhaustion by itself cannot directly cause a death. There are three “gates” of death in the human body, i.e. the brain, the heart, and the lungs. If the brain does not obtain sufficient oxygen for whatever reason, for example an embolism, brain cells would die but the patient would not die immediately. The human body has compensatory mechanisms to maintain the life of the remaining cells for a while. Even brainstem death is still a “medical death” – it takes several more hours before biological death, i.e. death after the heart and lungs stopped functioning.”

He further reiterated that even if a person suffers from heart failure, kidney failure, and liver failure simultaneously, they would not die immediately. The person might lapse into a coma first for several days, even more. “Such cases require thorough medical examination. How come the media stated that many electoral officers have died of exhaustion? This is fooling the laypeople – those who know little or nothing about medical science,” he said. (Dan)