Former Indonesian Dictator Suharto Develops Potentially Lethal Blood Infection

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The condition of Indonesian ex-dictator Suharto slipped to a new low Tuesday, as he developed a potentially deadly blood infection and his heart became unstable, his medical team said.

The further deterioration reduced the likelihood that Suharto, 86, would recover from multiple organ failure suffered since falling ill earlier this month.

"This is a new low point," said Dr. Harryanto Reksodiputro. "Suharto's condition is very bad, considering his old age, his previous strokes and poorly functioning kidneys, heart and lungs."

Suharto had developed the serious medical condition called sepsis, which is characterized by a whole-body inflammatory state caused by infection, Reksodiputro said.

Sepsis can progress to blood circulatory dysfunction, further multiple organ failure and eventually to death. It is considered more dangerous for elderly people or patients in critical condition and can lead to septic shock, which has a fatality rate of more than 60 percent.

Doctors responded by maximizing intensive care and administering intravenous anti-infection drugs, said another doctor, Marjo Subiandono.

Suharto was rushed to a hospital in Jakarta, with anemia, failing kidneys and heart trouble on Jan. 4.

After initially responding well to a blood transfusion and dialysis, his health sharply deteriorated. Aides said privately he appeared several times to be on the verge of death.

The retired five-star general's lungs and kidneys were barely functioning Monday, but his heart had shown signs of improvement and he responded to family members and regional leaders who visited him at his bedside.

Suharto, whose 32-year regime was widely regarded as one of the 20th century's most brutal and corrupt, was driven from office a decade ago amid massive student protests and nationwide riots, opening the way for democracy in this predominantly Muslim nation of 235 million people.

He retired to his Jakarta mansion after his ouster.

A series of strokes left him with brain damage and impaired speech — keeping him from facing trial.

He has been accused of overseeing a purge of more than half a 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 has said Suharto and his family amassed billions of dollars (euros) in state funds, an allegation he has denied.

Doctors were struggling to keep him alive.

He has pneumonia, one of the gravest threats to patients with multiple organ failure.

Malaysia's former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad visited his longtime friend Monday, following a visit by Singapore's former Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew a day earlier.

"(I am) very sad, because when I last met him he could still think clearly," Mahathir told MetroTV after praying at Suharto's bedside and whispering in his ear.